The eruptive sounds and guttural screams of the Toadies should be well avowed by any fan of the Fort Worth, TX band. Nothing could be more discernible than the crunch of the guitars, drive of the bass and drums and the intense howl from singer Vaden Todd Lewis. With songs like Tyler, Backslider, I Come from the Water and the perpetual radio smash, Possum Kingdom (all off of the bands debut album Rubberneck), the Toadies were simply everywhere!
I was fortuante enough to have seen the band play several times during their dominant run throughout the 1990's and I can truly say they've never disappointed. Many years of virtual silence from the band (mainly due to fights with their record label) had led to some fans moving on; all while the music scene they once helped create, had changed drastically. Now fast forward a bit and we find ourselves staring at a "new" Toadies if you will, with the release of their album Heretics in September, 2015. This record is quite a departure from what we've known of the Toadies in the past. It does have some new and unreleased material (In the Belly of a Whale and Send You to Heaven respectively) but it's largely made up of older songs with new arrangements. It's a bit of a risk for such an established band, but one that pays off mightly.
As for the show itself, I knew I wasn't in for the loud, high intensity show I've seen in the past so it was exciting to anticipate this "new thing" I was about to witness. The venue, City Winery NYC, certainly gives away what type of vibe and feel one should be expecting when seeing a show there. It's quiet, reserved and intimate.
The set began with Rattler's Revival off of Play.Rock.Music and it was almost like a feeling out period. The crowd wasn't completely sure of what to expect and the band was getting a gauge as to where the audience was with this experiment. The next two songs proved to everyone that all was right with the world as they plowed through hits Backslider and Jigsaw Girl. As if the whole idea of stripped down versions of old songs in a quiet setting weren't enough of a surprise, the Toadies dropped a few very good, yet interesting covers on us. The Blondie classic, Heart of Glass was the first cover of the night. It's tough to play such a well known song and make it your own yet the Toadies did just that. There were some other pretty cool covers including Someone Great by LCD Soundsystem and Heroes by David Bowie but the best cover of the night was held until the next to last song of the set. In what was one of the louder sing a longs of the night, the band ripped through their take on the Talking Heads, Psycho Killer. Hearing that song in New York City certainly added to the crowds joyous reaction and the band matched the faithfuls intensity.
I mentioend earlier that the album which inspired this tour, Heretics, had some new material on it and the Toadies were not going to let an opportunity to show some of that material off go by the wayside. The highlight here was In the Belly of a Whale which certainly fits the model of this new record but also brings us back to the glory days of the 1990's Toadies which isn't a bad mix at all. It's a dark, gritty song with the unmistakable Toadies stamp right on it.
What would a Toadies show be without tracks such as Tyler, (the greatest song about a stalker you'll ever hear), Dollskin, I Come From the Water and of course, Possum Kingdom? Fortunately I cannot answer that question as all of those songs were played to the delight of the packed house. I Come From the Water closed the set and I'm quite sure that all who may have been skeptical at the start were now fullfilled and satisfied. It was a cold and rainy night in New York City but both band and audience were feeling cozy and warm once it was time to head out into the night again.
The reason the Toadies have survived all of these years and have develped the loyal fanbase they have is two fold: 1. Great songs! 2. Their unwillingness to compromise and their courage to do what they want. Keep the surprises coming guys, your fans will be there waiting for you when you do.