TOADIES — LIVE REVIEW
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Photos by Nicolas Bates
Written by Dan Sinclair
It’s been well over a decade and a half since The Toadies released their debut album Rubberneck, and a quick glance around the audience assures that everyone here in attendance at the House of Blues this fine October evening is in his or her thirties… probably. Yes, the best part about seeing a band live whose glory days coincided with your high school years is the almost certain guarantee that everybody in the crowd is the same age as you. Well, actually I guess the best part is to see the band is still alive and rocking and not resting silently in a nursing home or six feet under, but the crowd being the same age as you is definitely right up there.
The band takes the stage after the PA system plays some song about loving Texas. Oh, right, The Toadies are from Fort Worth. If that song didn’t remind everyone of that fact, surely the Texas flag over one of the amps would. Well, even if they didn’t notice the flag, most probably did ask themselves, “Hey, didn’t these guys used to have a chick bass player?” Answer to that question would be, “yes,” but the key phrase would be “used to.” See, it was former bass player, Lisa Umbarger’s departure from the band circa 2001, that the band cited as the major reason that they broke up. The Toadies just couldn’t exist without her… well, until 2008 when they reunited and employed the talents of Doni Blair (a dude bass player) and have been putting out new albums ever since.
Frontman (and longtime face of The Toadies franchise) Todd Lewis comes out donning his trademark nerdy glasses and somewhat reminiscent-of-a-flat-top haircut. He thanks everyone for coming out and then goes right into “Happyface”—one of the heavier tracks off their debut album from way back in 1994. Lewis sings, “I tried to wish you away,” and perhaps some had wished away the post-grungy sound of ‘90s bands such as The Toadies years ago, but those people did not include the hundreds in attendance tonight, so fuck you. They follow that with “Push the Hand” off of Feeler and the title track from 2008’s No Deliverance, before returning back to Rubberneck with the feedback and reverb-laden song “Away.”
This tour is in support of their new album, Play.Rock.Music, which Lewis reminds us of by joking that the album is “still for sale.” Then they play their first single off that album, “Summer of the Strange.” The band apparently had a great time recording the video for that song as Lewis explained that it heavily featured “boobs and shotguns… a few of my favorite things.” They follow this up with their first selection off of 2001’s Hell Below/Stars Above, “Sweetness,” and lead guitarist Clark Vogeler has a great time playing with his whammy bar.
But it’s when the band plays “I Come From the Water” that the crowd takes on new life. Everyone in attendance starts jumping around and singing along. Some dude in the front, complete with a baggy flannel, pumps his fist at the band and screaming every word at them with some much passion that it almost seems a threat. The song creates enough energy that the crowd continues to muscle through the lesser known “Little Sin” and “Hell in High Water,” before exploding back into more of their favorites off Rubberneck with “Mister Love” and “Tyler.”
Soon thereafter, the Toadies play their mega-hit single “Possum Kingdom” and everyone is all in. Even the jaded writers at least mouth the words silently since they can’t get over their own pride and sing loudly like everyone else. Rumor has it that one of these writers actually performed a pretty-kick ass karaoke version of this song one night while drunk somewhere in Santa Monica… but alas, ‘tis but a rumor.
As The Toadies finish their set and leave the stage, it is clear that they are genuinely grateful for all fans in attendance, especially those who passionately sang along to every song played. I’m sure they hope that these longtime fans will continue to support and buy the new records faithfully, so maybe the band can have even a longer run this second time around, chick bass player or not.
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