Review: Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Red Rocks, 6/10/12

Categories: Last Night

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Eric Gruneisen
Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Red Rocks.


BIG HEAD TODD AND THE MONSTERS @ RED ROCKS | 6.10.12

It didn't take long for Todd Park Mohr to wax nostalgic for the capacity crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Saturday night. Five songs into his band's nearly two-hour set, the frontman noted that he couldn't remember the last time the group had sold out the venue. He went on to offer a defiant boast, a proud statement of purpose from a veteran of the Colorado music scene. "We're still here after 27 years," Mohr said before the quartet launched into an energetic rendition of "The Moose Song." "We're still here and we got some heat going on."

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Eric Gruneisen
Big Head Todd at Red Rocks.

Mohr's nod to the band's nearly three-decade history summed up the larger feel of Saturday's show. Big Head Todd and the Monsters delivered forceful live versions of familiar tunes, songs laced with plaintive vocals and driving guitar solos that made the band a favorite of college radio stations in the jam-band heyday of the 1990s.

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Eric Gruneisen
Big Head Todd at Red Rocks.

Since 1986, the band hasn't really altered its basic musical approach -- the set featured the familiar mix of pop-rock song structures and extended stretches of musical improvisation. But the effect of the show went deeper than the setlist. The performance had the spirit of a musical victory lap, a tribute to the die-hard fans who followed the band from college-town concerts in the '80s to national festivals and tours through the '90s and 2000s.

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Eric Gruneisen
Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Red Rocks.

Indeed, old-school fans of the band were in abundance on Saturday, offering an eerie and overwhelming chorus of sing-alongs for nearly every song. It took little effort to find concertgoers in the massive crowd who could go into detail about early shows in Boulder and Fort Collins. Hometown fans sported vintage T-shirts of past tours and predicted a guest appearance by Hazel Miller before she walked onto the stage.

The stage was largely bare for Big Head's set -- apart from the band's instruments, a single screen was the only decoration. Ten minutes before the band kicked off its set, vintage cartoons from a 1970s-era movie theater beamed on the screen; an avuncular narrator encouraged audience members to hit the snack bar and grab some hot dogs before announcing, "It's showtime."

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Eric Gruneisen
Jeremy Lawton of Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Red Rocks.

The crowd rose to its feet as soon as the band played the first chords of "Broken Hearted Savior." Mohr established a pattern of guitar prowess from the first tune, delivering a powerful set of solos in tunes like "Blue Sky" and "Resignation Superman." Jeremy Lawton's keyboard lines had the feel of gospel piano, while the rhythm section of Brian Nevin and Rob Squires laid down a bluesy foundation for Mohr's emotive lead on vocals and guitar. Indeed, the influence of the band's recent tribute to Robert Johnson was clear in the stripped-down, bluesy feel of the entire set.

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Eric Gruneisen
Brian Nevin of Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Red Rocks.

That quality was even more pronounced with the arrival of Hazel Miller, who joined the band for renditions of songs like "Please Don't Tell Her" and "It's Alright." Miller lent her expansive, emotional strains for the choruses, and offered a jaw-dropping vocal outro for "It's Alright." The band seemed to gain confidence and energy from the constant chorus of sing-alongs and the manic energy in the crowd as the show progressed.

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Eric Gruneisen
Rob Squires of Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

Mohr's vocals picked up intensity for lines like "Sweet Jesus I'm a broken man" in the rendition of "Heart of Wilderness," Lawton delivered a powerful lap steel solo during "The Moose Song" and the band gelled powerfully for a rendition of "Bittersweet" that drove the crowd nuts. That momentum only seemed to pick up as the group played until well after 11 p.m.

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Eric Gruneisen
Brian Nevin of Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Red Rocks.

While the four-piece showed marks of its most recent studio tribute to Robert Johnson in its performance, this show was all about Big Head Todd and the Monsters' own history. It was a celebration of a hometown hero, a nod to the influence of a Colorado band on the wider musical landscape of the 1980s and 1990s. The impact was powerful and transporting, even for those who hadn't been there to witness the effect firsthand.

Location Info

Map

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO

Category: General

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6 comments
Joan Forbes Holmes
Joan Forbes Holmes

An astounding musical experience that assaulted you mentally, physically and spiritually!!!  Red Rocks and BHTM are a special mix that create concert legends and this will surely go down as one of the very best ever!!!  Todd and the band were caught up in all the magic and we were the chosen ones to receive the musical gift.  Thank you for a great memory.

Jonathankirsch1
Jonathankirsch1

Great review. Show was amazing, and Hazel knocked it out of the park as usual. By the way, A.H. Goldstein, it's Jeremy Lawton on the lap steel, not Brian Nevin.

Mel Romm
Mel Romm

AMAAAAAAAZING!!! BHTM at Red Rocks = The official start of Summer in Colorado! My Cousin's been a loyal BTHM fan since the band's early (1989- 1990) college shows at UNC - Greely. He hasn't missed a show since! For me, it was 1993. BHTM Never, EVER disappoint! It's impossible to have a bad night at Red Rocks. Todd, oh, Todd - the way you make your guitar sing such beautiful and haunting melodies. Your voice and guitar have helped me through some tough time in my life. We fans appreciate the time, energy and HEART you all put into making Red Rocks the BEST SHOW of the year. Thank you for giving us fans our yearly BHTM/special guest Hazel Miller/Red Rocks "fix". Hazel.... YOU play a significant part of making the June RR show .. "the one" worth waiting for! We wait ALL YEAR to hear you "KILL IT" during "It's Alright". You leave me on my feet, clapping, screaming and utterly SPEACHLESS!! Hazel, your voice is a true gift, thank you for sharing it with us!! Looking foreword to BHTM @ Red Rocks 2013!

rdjohnso
rdjohnso

was a great show.... missed ya playing a couple big songs - Spanish Highway & Muhammid Ali.... hopefully next year!!

Hazel Miller
Hazel Miller

Wow this is a great review.  Thank you Lydia Kerr for sending it to me.  Thank you Westword for being the loyal, supportive group you have always been for local performers.  Todd, Rob & Brian are the success that they are because they've sacrificed and given of themselves for 27  years.  Adding Jeremy to the mix was a stroke of genius. They've given me many opputunities to join them since 1996.  I love them like the precious brothers that they are to me.  Hey Jeff and Joney I love you too!!

Mkury
Mkury

AMAZING show!!! I live in NC and have seen BHTM all over the country. This was far and away the BEST show ever. Seeing them at Red Rocks was better than I imagined. Strike one thing off my bucket list....this may become an annual event!!

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