The Fred heads were there. So were the Todd faithful.
The big side of Dallas’s Gypsy Tea Room was about half capacity so there was plenty of room to maneuver through the crowd without getting jostled (or having to jostle) yet still offering a respectable turnout for Todd Snider and opener Fred Eaglesmith.
It was a pretty good night for train songs, sing-a-longs, talking blues, rants, and party tunes.
Fred played solo. While the front of the crowd was singing along to “Freight Train” and “I Shot Your Dog”, the rear of the crowd was conversing away.
That’s a common complaint – people chattering constantly while a solo performer tries to play, but Fred didn’t seem to notice. He kept on playing right over them. He played with real force and the Fred devotees seemed oblivious to anything else in the room.
When he played his closer – “49 Tons (of Diesel Locomotive)” – I could swear some of the talkers quieted down – not all of them, mind you, but some.
Todd Snider came out with his full band, the Nervous Wrecks, kicked off his shoes and started with a couple songs from his latest CD, “East Nashville Skyline.” He played the first track – “Aged Like Wine” – solo while the band stood by. Then they launched right into Todd’s cover of Eaglesmith’s “Alcohol And Pills”.
Todd seemed to be healthy, sober, and happy to be here. He wore a burgundy sport coat with a loose tie and a hat. The band rocked and the audience loved it, singing along with most of the songs.
He comes across much more vividly live than he does on disc, playing loose and keeping it light while still getting his point across, falling somewhere between earnest singer songwriter with a sense of humor and frontman of a rocking party band.
And the Nervous Wrecks really rocked. They played all the favorites, “Easy Money,” “What’s Wrong With You,” “Alright Guy,” “This Land is Our Land,” and “Try And Keep It Down.”
Todd played a couple of extended talking blues songs – “Tension,” extending his rant about the war on drugs and religion. Then, later in the set: “The Ballad of The Kingsmen.” For this, the talkers actually did, for the most part, shut up and listen. He made it a pretty amusing little sermon and even worked some Motown into it – “Let’s Get It On” and “It’s Your Thing.”
His cover of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Life’s Too Short” was another high point. When in Texas, it never hurts to play a Texas song.
After that, he rolled out the best cut from “East Nashville Skyline,” “Play A Train Song,” before closing the set with a rocking version of “Satisfaction Guaranteed.”
Then he did something I haven’t seen anyone do in a long time: he came back for an encore and played some fuckin’ Skynyrd, man. “They Call Me The Breeze.” Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone actually play a Skynyrd encore.
OK. So it’s not “Freebird.” The thought was nice.
After that, in front of the diehard fans that stayed, the sing-along really got going with “Barbie Doll” and “Double Wide Blues.”
Todd and the Wrecks came back for a second encore and closed the night by going full circle with “East Nashville Skyline” – playing the last cut, “Enjoy Yourself."
Not that it seemed to me there was anyone there who needed to be told.