Four crafted hours. Opening: Four lovelies play classical strings. Unexpected. Surprisingly refreshing. Nonetheless, eventually soothing violins morph into analogs of tightly strung audience.
Enter stodgy MC announcing further delays. Strings coil, pop. But, another surprise -- he's a skilled comedian. Tired of refinement? Great. Get ready for bawdy, gross. . . and funny.
Now, Russell and lead guitarist, long-time friend, Billy. A quiet song all about it being "a long way down from here." Opening jitters? But for naught.
Russell opens up, greeting Austin. Meet his bandmates: Dave Wilkins, backup vocals, guitar. Out-going, self-possessed -- classy rock performer in sleek leather pants.
Behind him, Garth Adam, bass. Focused, inner-oriented, tranquil in his corner, shielded from the audience.
Dave Kelly, drums. Eccentric by comparison, his humor and energy project from the back of the stage past the drumset.
Stewart Kirwan, trumpet. Young guy. Infectious grin. Audience conductor in handclapping, arm-waving participation. A well-chosen counterfoil to mellow Garth.
Billy Dean Cochran, lead guitar. Intensity capped, pressurized -- released only through fingers on the guitar. Absolutely self-contained. At one point Russell wipes his incredibly sweaty face on Billy's shirt. The transgression elicits the barest smirk. Later, Russell tells Billy we want to hear him play. Billy's reply: "Bullshit." We applaud convincingly, but he's impervious.
Front and center, surrounded by dichotomies: Russell Crowe. A thick, long-sleeved black shirt and black jeans hide his physicality, giving a carefully measured beginning.
It's a poignant, serious hour with small bursts of comic relief. The stories about Russell's grandfather, deceased friend, and former girlfriend with her own CD that won't have any songs about him on it, are at the heart of TOFOG's identity/appeal.
Like good movies, the songs give form to experiences many have, but few take time to process or feel. They also offer walks down roads never traveled. Nothing slick or high-tech, but if you like character studies, difficult emotions and thought with your rock n'roll, prepare for addiction.
Deeply satisfying encore. Russell in a tank. The effect? A sprinter training in weights takes them off for a race. Crowe, suddenly light, almost giddy -- ready to rock. The audience revels in five, jet-paced romper stompers. It's a hand-clapping, arm-waving, hip-swaying, everyone's-feeling-pretty-good time.
The finish? Hopeful new story about never being lonely and innovative rendition of Barry Kable: prologue and music integrated into perfect blend of story and musical poetry. Fans have a wealth of wonder to anticipate. (Lisa McCusker) (Photo credit: splashnews.com, Heat Magazine, thanks to Laura G.)
The commanding presence of Russell's that catapulted his career also captivated our attention throughout the show. He knows how to deliver!! (Christy)
It still seems somehow surrealistic to me: how I could be so utterly miserable physically (because of the sweltering heat) & be having such a fantastic time because the Grunts were great! Everyone was great: Dean, Dave, Dave, Garth, Stewart, & Russell. I agree with the others that have said they are much better live than on their CDs. . . . As I flew home & even now, I keep remembering his humorous & serious exchanges with us....from poignant stories to teasing us. After singing "YTMLChocolate" he continued to make reference about how he wanted babies. When every woman offered her womb, he said, "we'll make a list." He also scolded us: "Now don't be throwing your panties up here either. I know some of you are planning on doing that. Just keep them on." The Grunts played for over 2 1/2 hours including 3 encores. I find myself feeling very sad today because I'm realizing I don't know when any of us will see them play again. Of course, we'll see Russell Crowe, the actor. But after Austin, I want more Grunts. (Cheryl Hayes-Bartlett)
What a fantastic experience! Russell and TOFOG certainly are a rowdy, entertaining bunch to listen to in a hot Texas night. (Carolyn A. Dallas, TX)
His voice is beautiful, the band are true professionals, we all had such a good time. Russell showed us the proper way to line dance (showing us how). I loved his stories of how the music was written, and am in awe of his feelings about his family. We got three encores, and it wasn't over until sometime around 1:00. We all would have liked several more hours of amusement at the hands of Russell Crowe and the Grunts. (Karen Woods Sugar Land, TX)
The show had a bittersweet feel to it; there were a lot of people who had turned this into a two-week vacation/sojourn type of journey, and NO ONE (in spite of the blistering heat) wanted to see it end!! However, there was MAJOR disappointment when, upon FINALLY entering the concert area, we discovered that ten feet directly in front of the stage had been sealed off to make room for camera crews who wanted close-ups of the stage/band during the performance. Russell did apologize for that; however; saying "Sorry about the front of the stage; it's not that I don't want you close to me; but the camera crews needed space to work".
Russell did get EXTREMELY irritated with some of the local star wannabes who were up in the VIP balcony last night. They kept talking through the show; and at times were quite loud. Three times Russell stopped the show and screamed at them to "Shut the F**K up!"; at one point even commenting "This is what happens when you invite Hollywood bastards to the show!". I don't think the starlets took him seriously, though, until his final warning; which came accompanied by the "one-finger salute". They managed to quiet down after that.
Another big highlight was Kevin ("Tree") Durand, who made a cameo appearance late in the show (during the second encore) for the song "Nowhere". He came out onto the stage and immediately launched into a frenetic version of his rap portion of the song! He had the entire place jumping up and down; which, considering the late hour, was quite a feat! Russell tried to keep Kevin's cameo appearance a secret (what WAS he thinking?), but to no avail! By the time he introduced the song "Nowhere", pretty much everyone in the crowd knew "Tree" was there and would probably perform. Russell remarked as he introduced the song, "I see you already know what your Christmas present is!"
There were some lighting difficulties towards the end of the show, which made the show run a little late (it ended around 1:00 am). At one point, they brought the Aussie comedian back out on the stage. He made the best of a trying situation; even performing with a flashlight to try and appease everyone! The band did a third encore this time; probably due to the disruptions during this final show.
Again, no one seemed willing to let it end; yet as they say, "All good things must come to an end." One can only hope the members of TOFOG will find a way to do this again somewhere in the world where, hopefully, I'll meet up once again with all my new-found friends! (Amy Gibson) (Photo credit: splashnews.com, Heat Magazine, thanks to Laura G.)
"The stars at night are big and bright...deep in the heart of Texas."
Russell Crowe & Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts wrapped the "Bastard Life or Clarity" appearances at Stubb's on 8/18 with the terrific show we've come to expect, as well as a few surprises. This show had several notable personalities on hand to watch from the upper balcony, including Sandra Bullock, Jodie Foster, and Ron Howard. Texas' Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry was there & was credited by Russell as being instrumental in helping the band donate the proceeds from the shows back to the community of Austin. Lt. Gov. Perry & the citizens of Austin owe a great big "Thank You" to Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts for their generosity!
It was clear the band was feeling playful on this last gig. The sound crew set up a makeshift bar at the end of the stage, complete with several different types of beer, ashtrays, a candle, and an ice bucket on a cloth covered table. One of the stage crew wore a white shirt & black bow tie; he was the "Bartender." Between songs, Russell and Dean would take turns getting a round of drinks from the bar for the boys in the band. It was quite entertaining.
Russell became irritated by a steady buzz of conversation from the upper balcony during the show; it was interrupting his concentration when he was telling his stories, especially the poignant one about his Grandfather's service during W.W.II. He had the crew bring up the lights, & proceeded to wag his finger at the VIP's, telling them that if they didn't want to "Shut Up & Listen," that they should just leave "and go to Antoine's." He then said that's what happens when you have all those "Hollywood people" there. They weren't the only ones to get his ire up, though. The audience had brought a lot of things to give to Russell. Though they meant well, the number of folks throwing things at him on stage was also a distraction. After one person threw what appeared to be a towel of some sort, Russell said "You're throwing things at me you wouldn't sell at a garage sale," and he asked them to stop. When a few more missiles came later, he said "STOP THROWING YOUR SHIT." It was clear he was not kidding and for the most part, people abided by his wishes after that.
After performing "She's Not Impressed," Russell stated that he now feels differently than he did when he wrote the song, and went on to say that he does indeed "want babies." Well, you can imagine the reaction that comment had on a predominantly female crowd that idolizes the ground he walks on! A roar of "Me, me!" ensued; Russell laughed and said "Whatever made me say that?"
The highlight of the evening was a surprise visit by none other than "TREE", Mr. Kevin Durand, who joined the guys onstage to crank out the rap to "Nowhere." It was the icing on the cake to a rocking encore jam. "Tree" told the crowd to jump, and the crowd obeyed; jumping and waving their arms in the air, keeping beat to the music. He was something to behold, all 6'7" of him! "Nowhere" is good on it's own merit, but with the rap added, it was a perfect live performance of a "Gaslight" favorite. The crowd went wild over it!
So there it is. Three shows have come and gone, and I can't even imagine what next Friday will be like for me, without a quick road trip to Austin to see the best of the best performing in hot, crowded, memorable STUBB'S BAR-B-Q. TOFOG is now part of the music history of Austin - the "Live Music Capital" of the U.S. of A., and I'm really thankful to have been a part of it. (Diane, Dallas, TX)
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