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Review by Jonathan Martin
He steps out on stage, seemingly alone…He’s wearing his token hat, playing-card guitar strap, t-shirt, and sunglasses. “I was so much younger then, I would never ever listen. I am so much older now, thought that things would end up different. “Todd Park Mohr serenades his fans with the ballad “Monument in Green,” these lyrics visibly striking a chord with his very focused audience. The band slowly blends in to create a soft, touching song with a real Midwestern feel. Who opens their show with a ballad? Big Head Todd and the Monsters; that’s who!
It’s yet another cold night at The Orange Peel (Fri.,Feb.1,2013), but this is not just another band. Consisting of the really talented Rob Squires on bass (as well as electric upright), The loose and melodic keys of Jeremy Lawton (who also plays a sweet steel guitar), the rhythmic and rather explosive Brian Nevin on sticks and rounded out by lead and rhythm guitarist, lead singer, and primary songwriter for the band, Todd Park Mohr. Someone I was less familiar with, Bluesman Ronnie Baker Brooks, would well fill in some lead vocal and lead guitar spaces as the show went on, seemingly determined to inform of just who he was with his smooth-ass guitar style. He would succeed.
“Monument in Green” was followed by the pop rockin’ “Spanish Highway.” “Driven back to what belongs to you…’This number got the crowd moving.
The first set also included, “Caroline,” from the album Beautiful World, boasting a melodic, yet dissonant opening riff. “I felt the summer wind for the first time… ‘Pieces of this song reminded me of Led Zeppelin’s unforgettable “Kashmir,” yet carrying Todd’s truly unique bluesy edge.
Todd and the Monsters played to the requests of the crowd for the majority of the first set, sounding out the classics (classics to me) “Broken Hearted Savior;” a wonderful hard rock ballad, and the short but sweet, ‘Vincent of Jersey.” Sometimes I think he knows me….”Rise, fall, turn the wheel; that’s all life is, it’s really just a circle…”Todd bares his soul in the minor-keyed “Circle,” one of my personal favorites.
Ronnie Baker Brooks slowly worked himself into the show with his make-love-to-the-guitar style. Although he was splitting guitar solos and lead vocals beautifully in a previous song, my ears were truly pleased to hear R. B. B. share the lead in “It’s Alright”. “It’s alright if you don’t want to go home; it’s alright if you don’t want to be alone…I understand, I understand, I understand…’Yeah, Todd and R. B. B. made “musical love” on stage; I’m talking guitars people!
After a brief intermission, BHT and the Monsters returned with the funky smooth “Rock Steady,” putting his waiting fans right back into rhythm. Todd then strummed his way into what is probably their best known tune,”Bittersweet,” which I got to hear to the accompaniment of the three drunken gentlemen and one drunken lady all dancing next to me. Fortunately, it was far more entertaining than annoying. In my heart, I was singing along with them; it’s just that kind of song.
It wasn’t long before BHTM broke out into “Josephina.” “I’m trapped, and I can’t find an open door! I won’t go back to that job on the killing floor! Josephina, in my bones, I got to roam…” Roam Todd and his merry band of Monsters do, as they seem to be venturing into some rockabilly with this new track. Lawton was all out on the keys, while Todd ripped the leads. I never thought of them as being unadventurous, but “Josephina” would put to rest any possible future doubts.
Todd Park Mohr and his Monsters also performed a touching tribute to the late Amy Whinehouse, “Black Bee Hive,” literally telling her story from his point of view. It’s fittingly that they followed up with the super soulful “Beautiful World,” absolutely wooing his entire audience.
Not one to hold back the new material from us, BHT and the Monsters moved right into “Hey, Delilah!”, with Ronnie Baker Brooks back in the line-up. Funky, raw, and with grinding rhythms,”Hey, Delilah!” hits the ears like something more familiar. “She was wilder than the West was won!” I think I know that woman…
And yes, there was an encore that included, among other great songs, a raise the roof, burn down the barn, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we all die version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House,” with Ronnie Baker Brooks. There wasn’t a dry body in the house by this time. Cold outside maybe, but Big Head Todd and the Monsters, along with axeman R. B. B. brought the stage and the receptive crowd to a boiling point. These five came with the heat to down town Asheville on a seventeen degree night, warming us up from the inside out.
What I’ve yet to mention, is that though his schedule is tight, Mr.Big Head T. made time for an interview and a two song solo performance, as well as a photo-op for Asheville Jams Magazine. Some of us rather lucky staff here at Asheville Jams Magazine got to hear the Amy Whinehouse tribute song “Black Bee Hive” performed solo before Todd went out to play it with the Monsters (Check back at this site for the exclusive video). Todd also took time to shake my hand and receive from me what I’ve always wanted to give him, my own demo disc. What a great dude!
I don’t know when you’re coming back to Asheville, but get back here as quickly as you and the Monsters can; the blues are waiting, Todd.