Big Head Todd And The Monsters: Road Tested

Boulder Colorado-based Big Head Todd and the Monsters played to the band’s faithful fans at the Hart theater located at The Egg Performing Arts Center in Albany, NY on Friday May 19. BHTM is comprised of Todd Park Mohr on guitar and vocals, Brian Nevin on drums, percussion, and vocals, Jeremy Lawton on keyboards, slide guitar and vocals, and Rob Squires on bass guitar and vocals. This is the first time that the band has played the Capital District since it’s last appearance at the Troy Music Hall back in November of 2016 touring in support of their blues passion project Big Head Blues Club which featured the songs of blues great Willie Dixon.

BHTM is currently in the middle of a very busy tour schedule that features a mix of their classic material as well as recently composed offerings which will be included on a new rock-based LP scheduled to be released later in 2017. Unfortunately due to a death in the family, bassist Rob Squires was unable to attend the performance. Thankfully, and much to the band’s credit, instead of simply canceling the show due to this family emergency, the band had keyboardist/slide guitarist Jeremy Lawton fill in on bass for Squires while the band performed to prerecorded keyboard tracks throughout the performance in order to make up for the short handed lineup.

Baltimore, Maryland’s own Chris Jacobs opened the show with a generous selection of soulful electric and acoustic blues that predominately featured offerings from his latest album Dust To Gold. Although the crowd was initially sparse and patrons were constantly shuffling to their seats while the house lights were up, lead vocalist and guitarist Jacobs along with his bandmates, bassist Todd Harrington and drummer/percussionist Dusty Ray Simmons. played as if it was a packed house. Highlights of their offerings included the introduction of a handmade cigar-box guitar that Jacobs played expertly on the track “Kind Woman.”

Once Jacobs finished a bluesy down and dirty version of “Bonedigger,” it was apparent that he and his band had won over the the enthusiastic and attentive audience. Jacobs was so pleased with the positive feedback the Albany crowd at the Egg provided, he invited the audience to the band’s next performance in New Jersey. Jacobs and company finished their maiden performance at the Egg’s Hart theater with a catchy and raucous version of “Jack The Whistle And The Hammer” which was reminiscent of an old 1970s Steve Miller Band song. The audience responded to Jacobs and his band’s final effort by giving them a rousing standing ovation which set the tone for the rest of the evening.

After a short intermission, the house lights fell and Big Head Todd and the Monsters took the stage and belted out their first song of the night “Resignation Superman,” which was featured on their 1997 LP Beautiful World. Guitarist and front-man Todd Park Mohr was on point with vocals and expert guitar playing and along with ample support from Nevin and Lawton,  they provided the audience a blueprint of what was to unfold for the remaining performance: a night of great alt electric rock.

Next up in BHTM’s set was the slower groovier “Crazy Mary” which was also off the Beautiful World LP. This track showcased Mohr’s proficiency at playing captivating guitar solos. The intimate crowd showed it’s approval with appreciative applause after each one of Mohr’s generous guitar solos.  BHTM followed up with fan favorite “Broken Hearted Savior,” a popular selection off of 1993’s Sister Sweetly. This track was also featured on the band’s latest live album Live at Red Rocks 2015. Throughout the night BHTM introduced an eager audience to newly completed unpublished tracks such as “Trip” and “The Bandaged One” which will be featured on their upcoming LP which is slated to be released later in the year.

It was apparent that members of the audience were devoted fans of the band since throughout the show while Mohr was in the process of changing guitars and tuning for the next selection, the crowd began calling out different song titles from the bands extensive catalog in the hopes that the band might play them. It was during one of those interludes that BHTM member Jeremy Lawton reminisced about being blown away after seeing the group for the first time at a local bar when he was only 20 years old way back in 1992. Lawton went on to say what a privilege it has been for him to have been able to play with such a talented group of musicians and bandmates for the last 13 years.

BHTM went on to take the cue from the crowd and provided additional material from early on in the band’s career such as the title track of BHTM’s second LP Midnight Radio which was released in 1990 on the bands own label “Big Records.” Mohr, who wrote the song, stated that the lyrics were inspired by the Tiananmen Square Massacre which occurred in Beijing China back in 1989. The band finished the evening with strong renditions of 1993’s radio friendly “Bittersweet,” the down and dirty blues number “New World Arising” and lastly “Cashbox” which featured a BHTM mash up of Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” Mohr and the band triumphantly left the stage only to quickly return while the audience was still on their feet applauding. They capped off the night’s performance with an energetic encore of “Rock Steady” and the ever-popular alt rock anthem “Circle.”

Big Head Todd and the Monsters will continue their tour of the East Coast throughout the month of May and will be performing on their home turf at the Red Rocks Amphitheater located in Morrison, Colorado on June 10, 2017 co-billing with Collective Soul. For more information about the band and tour dates,  check out their website.

Setlist: Cris Jacobs- Shine Your Weary Light, Devil or Jesse James, Kind Woman, Bone Digger, Be My Stars, Jack The Whistle and the Hammer

BHTM – Resignation Superman, Crazy Mary, Broken Hearted Savior, Trip, Imaginary Ships, Moose Song, Please Don’t Tell Her, Josephina, Mind, Midnight Radio, Wipeout Turn, It’s Alright, Turn The Light Out, The Damaged One, Bittersweet, New World Arisin, Cashbox

Encore: Rocksteady, Circle