Todd Snider said it best himself: he was only spouting his opinions because they rhymed—and to ease his mind. That anyone ever shows up to his performances is, to him, simply a bonus, one big blessing in the “crazy adventure” that has been his life. And years of playing in bars and sleeping on couches—the aforementioned “crazy life”—has provided the fodder for countless stories while fueling Snider’s numerous albums—most recently, 2009’s The Excitement Plan. But it is Snider’s wit, cynicism, humor and charm that coalesce into poignantly touching yet simple folk songs.
Snider has clearly perfected his many zingers and tales. Still, his disarmingly casual delivery and general openness sway even the sourest of moods. Telling the enthusiastic but respectful crowd at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s stunning Allen Room that it was the classiest joint he’d ever played, he pledged to censor his language (sort of) or at least provide a “90-minute distraction from our impending doom”. Though the setting seemed atypical, the occasion, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, was an ideal embrace of Snider’s talent and scope.
Over the course of the evening Snider evenly peppered his set with songs from The Excitement Plan (“Greencastle Blues”, “Bring ‘Em Home”, “Money, Compliments, Publicity (Song Number 10)”), Peace Queer (“Is This Thing Working?”), East Nashville Skyline (“The Ballad of the Kingsmen”) and The Devil You Know (“If Tomorrow Never Comes”), all the while honoring numerous requests. Whether Snider is, in the end, an endearing pessimist or an alleviated fatalist is unclear, but his relentless championing of the downtrodden, exploration of life’s ignored ironies and classic story-telling zeal are nevertheless sincere. It all amounts to an intimate and hilarious evening of love and anarchy.
Photos by Thomas Hauner