in performance: todd snider/patterson hood

patterson hood.

“Everything in moderation – including moderation, I suppose.”

That was one of the many credos Todd Snider dispensed with last night at the Opera House. It was a disarming enough line on the surface, masking a sense of displacement that ran rampant through the tune it was home to (Too Soon to Tell) and, to a degree, much of the East Nashville songsmith’s works. But placed in the context of last night’s concert, there was ample truth in these words.

todd snider.

That’s because this was unlike any performance Snider has given in nearly a decade. Instead an evening devoted to his poetic mischief, the show was a summit with longtime pal Patterson Hood, co-pilot of Drive-By Truckers. The two performed side by side for two hour-plus sets without a backup band. Thus, moderation was the order of the evening – that and the response of a hearty and vocal crowd that was obviously quite generous in their patronage of the Opera House bar.

The balancing act was quite fascinating at times. Snider would offer tunes with Dylan-esque wordplay (Stuck on the Corner), a stoner’s sense of askew humor (Big Finish)and themes where social and even political themes would come out to play (Conservative Christian, Right Wing Republication, Straight, White, American Males). The delivery of such material was ragged and playful in a way that still seemed almost traditional by folkie standards.

Hood, however, was more focused with his delivery and intent. And while he was every bit as jovial as Snider (and became increasingly so as the evening progressed), his material was far darker, as sensed by such morose Drive-By Truckers fare as Used to Be a Cop, Sink Hole and The Deeper In or newer music from his forthcoming Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance solo album. Especially intriguing was 12:01, a snapshot of a rural community where social activity reaches a zenith during the few post-midnight hours when liquor sales are allowed.

Concluding this first full collaborative Snider/Hood concert in nine years was a brief encore segment where each artist shrugged off the heavier designs of their own work for cover tunes. Snider chose the Temptations classic Ain’t to Proud to Beg while Hood more artfully went for Big Star’s September Gurls. Neither performance exactly reinvented the originals. But both allowed for the distinct stylistic boundaries separating these two artists to merrily crumble.

Sure, all things in moderation. Except at encore time, that is. Then, anything goes.

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