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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Fair
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CLUBWATCH

The Amazing Snider


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Todd Snider
Friday, Nov. 10, Barrymore Theatre, 8 p.m.

Musicians come and go, but every so often Madison is visited by a talent so great it can only be called one thing:

Witchcraft.

I don't know if folksinger-songwriter Todd Snider's supernatural gifts are merely seeing the future or molding it to his whims. When I first saw him strum in 1994, Snider was a newcomer to politically minded country-folk, providing a cynical but less depressing counterweight to grunge. More Arlo than Woody, his first album launched with 'My Generation (Part II),' a manifesto against consumerist culture:

We were raised up in the hallowed halls

Of half a million shopping malls...

We'll buy anything from Diet Sprite

To one thousand points of light

Other lyrics mention the Jackson 5, Nikki Sixx, Arsenio Hall and 'L.A. Law' as things we obsess over. Hardly groundbreaking ' until the curse took hold.

Arsenio Hall? 'L.A. Law'? Both soon canceled. Jackson 5 and Nikki Sixx? Michael's child-stalking allegations began in earnest around 1994, and Nikki Sixx's career tanked. Even Diet Sprite is no more, replaced with 'Sprite Zero,' which is supposedly different.

Though still humorously cynical, Snider's songs are less pointed these days. They're still rollicking, but a bit less raucous. 2006's The Devil You Know, which marks his major-label return, is solid, if a bit over-twangy. It impresses without leaving an impression.

The same, unfortunately, can be said for his concerts, which have also mellowed with age. In 1994 his performance felt like a challenge. When I saw him last, it felt like a performance ' just not as good.

But so what if his new stuff is nothing like his old stuff, neither of which compares to that first show I saw? As Snider sings in 'Age Like Wine':

My new stuff is nothing like my old stuff was

And neither one is much when compared to a show

Which will not be as good as another one you saw

So help me, I know,

I know...

Oh my God. He totally knew what my critique would be years before I wrote it!

Like I said, witchcraft.

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