Concert Review: Todd Snider / Amanda Shires at Knucklehead’s Saloon, Kansas City, MO 10/23/12

The added danger of thinking you may get held up at gunpoint can only add to the thrill of a show right? Knucklehead’s Saloon is an interesting venue for tons of reasons. Many of which have to do with its location, buried in downtown Kansas City just across the Missouri River in the midst of a large trainyard. Train tracks surround it on all sides as it sits with a small group of run-down houses creating a less than comfortable environment.

The train tracks are literally only a couple feet from Knucklehead’s Saloon. During shows the trains vibration can not only be felt in the concrete floor but the wind can be felt created by the trains. Knucklehead’s has indoor and outdoor venues. The indoor venue sucks. It is easily one of the most uncomfortable places I have ever seen a show. The outdoor venue is much better, it has a small balcony around the main floor with a nice stage and is easy to navigate and see a show. Fortunately, the Todd Snider and Amanda Shires show on October 23rd was outside despite it being an October evening. The weather really couldn’t have been better. A slight breeze blew on the roughly 75 degree night meaning not only did you not need the resident fans on but you didn’t need a coat or even long sleeves either.

Amanda Shires performs live at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 10/23/12.

Amanda Shires performs live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 10/23/12.

Amanda Shires would open the night by going on stage very soon after the listed 8:00 start time and would play for just around 35 minutes. She would play to a large, nearly all seated crowd that would remain sitting throughout the night. On the stage Shires had a large sign urging everyone to turn off their cell phones and refrain from talking, this would make perfect sense when Shires’ small but piercing voice would come out. She would only be accompanied by her small acoustic guitar that she would softly strum while playing classic sounding folk songs.

She would mention that Todd Snider was her favorite songwriter and it would show in her songs. The songs were written and delivered in a very similar way to Snider’s. The biggest difference being that her music was absent of the humor contained in nearly all Snider’s tunes. Amanda Shires would be supporting her latest album, Carrying Lightning on the evening and delivering a much more vulnerable version of the songs. Her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “That Don’t Make It Junk” fit well with her songs like the gentle “Lovesick I Remain.” The clear highlight of her set would be the great “When You Need A Train It Never Comes” which was of course coincidentally was accompanied by a passing train at just the right time creating a loud round of applause from the crowd.

Todd Snider performs live at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 10/23/12.

Todd Snider performs live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 10/23/12.

Todd Snider would wander out onto the stage accompanied by his opening act who would play with him for his entire set. Shires played a big part on Snider’s latest record of new material Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables by playing violin and singing on the whole album. Snider would gear up for his 90 minute set that contained 18 songs by blasting into a standard opening song for one of his shows with “Can’t Complain,” ending it with the lyric “How are you all? I can’t complain.”

After adorning the crowd with a couple songs he would give his nightly “18 minutes” speal, warning the crowd of what to expect even though nearly all of them could recite it back to him by heart, I know I could. He wouldn’t waste a lot of time before getting to easily his most requested song “Beerrun” in the middle of which he would explain how much he actually loved the song. It is a crowd favorite and Snider claimed it was his favorite song of his as well. While it is a big crowd pleaser I could easily go the through a Todd Snider show without hearing it and be happy. The song is a gimmick song and Todd Snider is a much better writer and musician than to have to rely on a gimmick song to sell records and tickets. I would also be willing to throw “Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males” into that mix of gimmick songs I’d be alright with Snider retiring but I know I’m in the minority on that opinion. He would of course perform both on this night.

I would much rather hear the sing-along “Stuck On A Corner” that all Snider fans know that he would play soon after, or anything of the new Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables album. He would only play one track off that record, “Too Soon To Tell.” The song, like the album, has a dark, pessimistic outlook with lyrics like “I’d love to trust you buddy but you’re clearly keeping secrets from me.”

Todd Snider performs live at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 10/23/12.

Todd Snider performs live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 10/23/12.

The setlist would be dominated by old favorites like “Easy Money” “Alright Guy” and “Beerrun.” A few nice surprises were thrown in like “Happy New Year” and “Is This Thing Working?” that would keep the setlist fresh. It should be said that any setlist wouldn’t be stale however, with his book-ending stories and frequent ad-libs Snider keeps things interesting. Shires contribution to the live show would be great at times like on “Stuck On A Corner” “Is This Thing Working?” “Too Soon To Tell” and “Ballad Of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern.” It would however seem tacked on and unnecessary much of the night like on “Alright Guy” and “Statistician’s Blues ”

Snider would proceed into “Play A Train Song” after hearing a train start to chug by. He glanced up to make sure it was still there and started the song with a smirk on his face as if he was executing a well thought out plan. The two song encore would contain the Jerry Jeff Walker cover “Mr. Bojangles” and the lively “Sideshow Blues.” Highlights of the night would include “Stuck On A Corner” and the requested “D.B. Cooper” that is always a great addition to the setlist, and the new “Too Soon To Tell.”

Todd Snider setlist from Kansas City, MO at Knucklehead’s Saloon 10/23/12

Can’t Complain
Is This thing Working?
[18 Minutes Intro]
Greencastle Blues
[Aaron Allen Story]
Ballad Of The Devi’l Backbone Tavern
Happy New Year
Too Soon To Tell
Beer Run>
Age Like Wine> Beer Run
Looking For A Job
Stuck On The Corner
Easy Money
Statistician’s Blues
D.B. Cooper
Alright Guy>
[Hill Country Goodbye Story]> Alright Guy
Conservative Christian…
Play A Train Song

Mr. Bojangles
[15 Minutes Story]
Sideshow Blues

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