Friday, December 15, 2017

Concert review: Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Simo

Big Head Todd and the Monsters performing at House of Blues Anaheim on Dec. 14, 2017.

In the World Series  no matter how great both baseball teams are  there can ultimately be only one team that goes home with the trophy.
Todd Park Mohr in action at
House of Blues in Anaheim.

Fortunately, when it comes to the art of making music, two talented teams can both perform flawlessly and walk off the field of play as champions. Such was the case at the House of Blues Anaheim on Thursday night (Dec. 14, 2017), where headliner Big Head Todd and the Monsters as well as opener Simo delivered masterful and memorable sets.

Making their first-ever performance in Orange County, California with this appearance, Nashville, Tennessee-based Simo roused early concertgoers with a 55-minute set of rock blending blues, roots, psychedelic, jazz, folk and other styles with an intoxicating touch. Led by singer-guitarist JD Simo and also featuring bassist Elad Shapiro and drummer Adam Abrashoff, the band opened with "Return" (the first track off the trio's new album Rise & Shine). JD Simo used a variety of sounds and effects to enhance his excellent guitar work on that song, a skill that frequently helped elevate all of the six tracks performed during the set.
JD Simo performing on Dec. 14.

The range of the material drew comparisons with the diverse likes of Ryan Adams, Ten Years After and Gary Clark Jr., but all of it completely original and performed with bona fide power by the three musicians. One of the most wonderful surprises was when the group performed "I Want Love," JD Simo singing in a tender falsetto while the richly-delivered song with its quiet moments and dramatic swells was chilling in its power. A beautiful slide guitar solo was one of many dramatic moments in the 9-minute song.

Simo closed with a powerful one-two punch, first delivering the mighty original Southern rocker "Light The Candle" (this extended version of the song was bolstered by an amazing jazz-styled section in the middle of the song), followed by a potent reworking of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends."

Todd Park Mohr displaying vocal and guitar chops.

Big Head Todd was equally perfect this night. The set was heavily weighted in favor of the Colorado-based quartet's outstanding new album New World Arisin', but there were plenty of classics to keep the faithful happy. After opening with the explosive "Room Full of Mirrors" (off the band's new album), a sweeping "Resignation Superman" complete with a dazzling guitar solo from singer-guitarist Todd Park Mohr was unleashed; the latter's rich tapestry was further enhanced by Jeremy Lawton's expansive keyboards.
Jeremy Lawton

The strong opening featuring those two great tracks was only the beginning of a rewarding and fast-moving night. Other early-set highlights included the dynamic blues-rocker "Wipeout Turn," a decidedly funky-blues turn via "Long Coal Train" and a gentle folk rock-flavored "Bittersweet" showcasing Mohr's emotive and distinctive vocals.

Later-set standouts featured during Big Head Todd and the Monsters' 100-minute concert was the heavy Delta blues of "New World Arisin,' and the semi-acoustic "Broken Hearted Savior."

Rob Squires at Anaheim House of Blues
"Glow" is one of the most stunning tracks on Big Head Todd's new album New World Arisin'. A live version of that stunner kicked off the band's encore on Thursday; the eight-minute song displayed a troupe  30 years into its run  that continues to push its sound in new and exciting directions. The blend of harmonies, stellar guitar work and a propulsive groove featuring the work of drummer Brian Nevin and bassist Rob Squires also added welcome firepower to the performance
Brian Nevin in action

The set-ending "Circle" began quietly, but across the song's 7-minute path there were nuanced and dramatic shifts, peaks and valleys, with Mohr's voice at one point almost screaming before his lead guitar work assumed the song's driving force. 

A very special night of rock 'n' roll to be sure.

Review: Robert Kinsler

Photos: Bob Steshetz

Editor's Note: A very special "thank you" to Bob Steshetz for his amazing photographs!

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