Todd Snider rarely performs with a band, but every February, The Nervous Wrecks show up in Reno for a two night stand. It was a little disappointing that Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack weren’t able to make it. I’m really sorry that I didn’t catch the name of the stand-in guitarist.
Once you’ve seen him a few times, there are certain expressions, moves, attitudes that you come to expect. The absolute best are the moments that he finds something funny himself and flashes that genuine fleeting smile. He does a funny little chicken dance. And he says, “God loves it when you dance,” to get the audience up, in spite of the fact that the casino discourages dancing.
Some people actually prefer to see Todd solo, because he’s looser, more willing to be flexible, and tells more stories. On Friday he did the song about Doc Ellis pitching a no-hitter in 1970 while high on LSD, followed by the story of how he missed football practice because he took psychedelic mushrooms for the first time. On Saturday, his only story was about how he came up with the lyrics to My Generation.
We were very surprised that he played mostly the same songs both nights: Old Times, Looking for a Job, Alright Guy, Beer Run, Incarcerated, Train Song, Conservative Christians, Doublewide Blues, Easy Money. And Great Balls of Fire from Jerry Lee Lewis. On Saturday he threw in DB Cooper and Statistician Blues and Chuck Berry’s Hail, Hail, Rock-n-Roll. There were a few more each night; I didn’t keep a set list. For the finale on Friday he dedicated a sweet little love song to his wife Melita, who was heading home, and also a couple from Iowa who requested it.
Unfortunately, casino shows are a drag because they set a very short time limit. Our evening was over by 9:15, which doesn’t seem fair. We wait all year for this and it’s over in a blink. Overall, I think you just have to accept that it's part I and part II of the same show and go both nights. Todd has the audience in the palm of his hand all night; they really want to enjoy themselves.