Concert Review: Firewater At The Grog Shop

Published on November 7th, 2012 in: Concert Reviews, Music, Reviews |

By Julie Finley

Cleveland, OH
October 6, 2012

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It had been a while since I’d been to a show . . . almost a year. There really hasn’t been anything worth seeing that has come through Northeast Ohio (with the exception of Blowfly, but yours truly had a migraine that wouldn’t quit that day, so I had to skip it). I heard that Firewater was actually coming back to Clevehole; I figured that Tod Ashley would’ve just skipped this dump altogether since the last time they played here, the crowd was small and the venue sucked. Luckily, he brought himself and his newest batch of minstrels to The Grog Shop in Cleveland, one of the few venues I actually like. The show was also on a Saturday night so I figured it was going to be mobbed, but that sadly wasn’t the case.

Actually, from what I gathered, very few actual Cleveholers were in attendance. Many members of the audience had traveled far distances to see the show, from areas like Detroit, Buffalo, Columbus, and Toledo. It’s pretty sad that Cleveholers skipped out on it, when so many others from out of town could actually get their shit together and show up. As if there was actually something else to do that night around here! It’s no wonder no one plays this town anymore, but enough about that.

The show was just as I expected: Awesome. I mean, how the hell could it NOT be awesome; it’s FIREWATER!

One thing I need to point out is that Firewater IS Tod Ashley, and he assembles a loosely-organized crew for touring. Every time I have seen a Firewater show, the line-up is always different. One thing that really struck me about this show was just how upbeat it was. Not that Firewater are depressing and sullen, but Tod A. is a great curmudgeon lyrically, and most of the set consisted of the latest album, International Orange!

International Orange! is probably the most optimistic Firewater album I have heard yet, and the lyrics are more humorous. The wry wit has always been present in Tod’s repertoire, but it’s gotten much more comical, lyrically. Musically, it actually sounds happy (but not too happy), and that was the general demeanor of this show” happy, but not TOO happy! Good times were had by the diehards in attendance, and I remember seeing many of the mugs in the audience at prior shows.

The oldest song I remember hearing in the set was “So Long, Superman” from The Ponzi Scheme, but there might’ve actually been a few older ones (I just can’t remember the entire set). Like I said, the set was mostly songs from the new album and quite a bit off of the last album The Golden Hour. This isn’t a cause for disappointment, though because the new album truly is excellent.

Most of the songs sound like instant classics, like they have always been in Firewater’s discography. Making an album that sounds timeless is actually a hard target to reach, but International Orange! does just that (and when performed live, its even better!), particularly the songs “Dead Man’s Boots” and “A Little Revolution.” It’s like these songs would be crowd pleasers even if you have never heard either one of them.

It also helps that the musicians on this tour were not only excellent, but also interactive with the audience. It wasn’t just Tod bantering; his band were comfortable enough to be just as outgoing. His bassist, for instance, was a real ball-buster. He was trying to stir up the audience with some harmless teasing, mentioning they came over 9,000 miles (so people better be excited), coupled with a silly empty threat from both he and Tod about “taking them outside” to tangle. Other funny moments worth mentioning: At the beginning of the first song, Tod was apparently thirsty, so much so, he just pointed to his mouth and made charade-like gestures to a guy in the front. He really wanted a swig of some guy’s Pabst Blue Ribbon! I couldn’t help but laugh out loud!

One other thing I would like to point out about this show: It was the last show of the US tour. Tod and his crew were heading back to Tod’s new homebase of Istanbul. It seems Tod is living in a new country whenever he decides to make a new album.

I am grateful that I got to catch this tour, because apparently when Tod got back to Istanbul, he blew out his right knee on stage and had to get emergency surgery, which prompted the European tour be postponed. Get Well, Tod!

Here are the rescheduled European dates for 2013:

21.02.2013 FR – Paris, Petit Bain
27.02.2013 IT – Milan, Magnolia
01.03.2013 AT – Ebensee, KV Kino Ebensee
03.03.2013 AT – Graz, PPC
04.03.2013 AT- Vienna, Szene
05.03.2013 CZ – Prague, Rock Cafe
06.03.2013 DE – Bielefeld, Forum
07.03.2013 DE – Regensburg, Alte Mälzerei
08.03.2013 AT – Steyr, Kulturhaus Röda
09.03.2013 DE – Lindau, Club Vaudeville
12.03.2013 DE – Berlin, Lido
13.03.2013 DE – Bremen, Tower
14.03.2013 DE – Cologne, Underground
15.03.2013 DE – Stuttgart, Universum

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