“I wrote that,” a smirking Todd Snider said after opening his Saturday night concert with Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles.”
It was the first of many such remarks and many songs (originals and otherwise) Snider performed for 395 patrons during a 90-minute set on February 4 at Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville, OH – an intimate space where 395 = sellout.
With a mostly ignored setlist at his bare feet, Snider appeared in rolled-up jeans, a cowboy shirt and a cap. He was in good spirits as he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, took requests, cracked jokes – “I’m happy to be … fucking anywhere!” he said early on – and played songs that were serious and unfunny (“Play a Train Song”), funny and unserious (“Beer Run”) and funny and serious (“Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males”).
Snider told gut-busting stories about waiting – unsuccessfully – for Johnny Cash to leave a recording session in hopes of playing songs for him. He spoke of the bitter disappointment he felt when he heard what he thought was his version of “Trouble” on the radio only to discover it was Mark Chestnutt singing, although a fat royalty check made it all better.
Snider was jovial, but often and worryingly, breathless between songs, something he alluded to once. He engaged directly with fans who shouted requests and comments, toasted the house repeatedly with his blue Solo cups and contorted his slender frame to emphasize lyrics and licks in song like “Alright Guy,” “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” and the timeless, nearly 70-year-old “Enjoy Yourself.”
As Snider took the stage for the encore, a fan tossed a joint on stage. Snider happily scooped it up and, in a single motion, underhanded it to his roadie in the wings.
“I’m going straight to hell/just like my mama said,” Snider sang on Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s “Straight to Hell” before taking his leave. After soaking in applause for a few seconds, Snider grabbed a bouquet of fake flowers off his ever-present on-stage table and sauntered off as the house lights came up.
Elizabeth Cook’s 35-minute opening set was similarly terrific – swinging from laugh-out-loud funny to lump-in-throat introspective. She told stories and sang songs about mullet-headed losers in bad cars (”El Camino”), men who prefer drinking to fucking (”Yes to Booty”) and the ravages of drug addiction (”My Heroin Addict Sister”). Seated and playing acoustic guitar with a lyric book at her side, Cook set the tone for the set that followed and elicited a rapturous response from the audience.