Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
In the blues world, Big Head Todd & the Monsters occupy the same similar musical tier as George Thorogood & the Destroyers.
The purists say that their music isn’t the “blues,” but the truth is, that for many of the twenty- or thirty-somethings who filled the seats last Friday night at the Hart Theater in The Egg, it’s as close to the “blues” as they’ll ever get in their concert-going experience or listening preferences.
And that’s OK…
Lead guitarist and vocalist Todd Park Mohr does play the blues, but he inserts a healthy dose of mainstream-pop music sensibility into the group’s songs and performances – no less so than do the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Derek Trucks or the late Jimi Hendrix. These artists – and Big Head Todd – are all the musical children of the blues.
After opening band Leroy Justice (an up-and-coming NYC-based contemporary blues band with a southern rock bent) got the ball rolling, Big Head Todd & the Monsters took to the stage and after the first song, raised the blues vibe a healthy notch or two.
Mohr’s energized guitar runs were well-crafted and delivered at just the right musical moments. Drummer Brian Nevin dynamically pounded the skins, while bassist Rob Squires laid down a spirited bottom end.
The fourth member of the group, Jeremy Lawton, may not have been there at very beginning (1986) when the other three started the band, but over the past few years his keyboard flashes and Dobro styled slide-guitar fills have become an integral part of the group’s overall sound.
For more than an hour and a half, Big Head Todd & the Monsters featured a few tunes from the group’s latest studio album, “100 Years of Robert Johnson,” and jumped around the band’s nine other releases for the rest. Their ’93 album, “Sister Sweetly,” was perhaps the strongest touchstone of the night, yielding such favorites as “Bittersweet,” “Broken Hearted Savior” and “It’s Alright.”
From the band’s first note to the last, the people in the audience danced in and around their seats; tapped their feet song after song; and shouted or cheered their approval. All in all, it was great night of blues for those that came.
And that’s a good thing!
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Nothing amazing happened during the New Orleans tune ‘Groove Me.’ They simply kept their head down and played the tune with good heart and moved it with good feel. ‘Broken Hearted Savior’ came at the back of the show, and by that point the energy was high and the whole place was in on it together. These guys play with nothing to prove, no forcing anything, no chip on the shoulder, no formula, no tricks. They just do their thing without fanfare. It’s well-worn now, and their audience has worn with them. While they may have filled the Palace back in the day, they’re filling the Egg now and they’ve got to be playing better than ever.”