Monday, September 15, 2003

Funk saps Snider's enthusiasm

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

On Thursday, a member of the country-music family died. So when a pair of Americana singer-songwriters played a show the following day, a song of tribute was to be expected.

Near the end of his set, Todd Snider, headliner of the Friday-night concert at Madison Theater in Covington, called for Tommy Womack, his opening act. Womack ascended to the stage, strapped on his acoustic guitar, and Snider yielded the microphone.

With that, Womack summoned with a song the spirit of a man whose death weighed upon the minds of not only the 216 concertgoers, but of music lovers everywhere.

"Come and knock on our door," warbled Womack.

"We've been waiting for you.

"Where the kisses are hers and hers and his, three's company too."

Johnny Cash died Friday, and Snider and Womack each paid tribute to the Man in Black, but they didn't forget John Ritter, estimable star of Three's Company and son of singing cowboy Tex Ritter.

Performing the Three's Company theme summed up the bittersweet and comedic styles of both Snider and Womack. Unfortunately, on this night, that song was just about as funny as any of those from the headliner's repertoire.

Snider has earned his reputation as heir to the king of the wry singers, songwriters and storytellers, John Prine, and not just because he records on a label owned by Prine. Snider's songs and stories make for terrific live shows.

But it didn't happen Friday. It wasn't as if the songs were all of the sudden unfunny. Snider just didn't seem into the show. He mumbled something about a cold. And he took a 10-minute break in the middle of the set - not a common practice for him. It halted any momentum that he might have been building.

The stories weren't there. Storytelling can eat up as much of Snider's set as singing, but Friday's show was virtually story-free. Late in the evening fans began shouting for Snider to tell one. He told a story about a fender bender, and it was funny. But, in the end, Snider was on the wrong side all night of the difference between being on a roll and being reminded by the crowd to be funny.

Snider started his show with Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Womack did his part in the opening set with a rendition of the Cash hit "A Boy Named Sue."

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