Sold Out Roxy (LA) Show Review
There’s a 20-something, tall blonde girl stripped down to her bra jumping up and down, beer spilled all over the floor and a smattering of flannel shirts in the Roxy. Given their off-kilter rhythms and often beautifully deranged lyrics, that’s what you should expect from a Toadies show. In 1994, that would’ve been a likely scene at any of the Texas rock band’s gigs, but in 2008, it’s still the case. That’s comforting in a twisted way. What’s even more comforting is that The Toadies rock harder than ever, and Toadies 2.0 kicks some serious tail.
Frontman Vaden Todd Lewis and Co. have always known how to put on a rock show. With equal helpings of beer and high-energy riffs, Toadies became one of the most bombastic live bands of the mid-90s post-grunge scene. They could always get a crowd jumping. As last night’s sold out gig at The Roxy proved, they can even get a nostalgic, blackberry-touting L.A. crowd bouncing up and down in the air. It felt like summer inside the sweltering venue with bodies packed tightly from the back bar all the way to the stage. Mid ’90s fashion abounded with various attendees resembling the cast of Reality Bites. For all the nostalgia, The Toadies felt as fresh as ever.
The Toadies revved up an almost two-hour set with the instrumental sparkplug “Mexican Hairless” from their 1994 Rubberneck. Instantly the crowd exploded, with fans jumping up in unison. “Backslider” followed with a massive hook that got the whole room singing. After an energetic “Little Sin,” Vaden addressed the crowd, asking, “How the fuck are ya? It’s been awhile!” His question was met with raucous cheers. Old classic “Happy Face” and new cut “So Long Lovey Eyes” both possessed the same flare and fire. Vaden’s voice has never sounded better. His quirky inflection gave the songs the same sense of unpredictability that made the Toadies such a strangely fun band.
“I Burn” possessed a kinetic vibrancy that hypnotized. The acoustic verse bubbled into the explosive chorus, and the audience couldn’t get enough of this Toadies classic. The set was heavy on old material, but that suited the fans just fine. “Quitter,” “Mister Love” and “Push the Hand” possessed a memorable vibe that all great rock songs have. However, it was the band’s delivery that made the songs even more relevant.
During the slower “Pressed Against the Sky” and “Doll Skin,” from 2001’s Hell Below / Stars Above, The Toadies showcased their sensitive side. Both songs saw the band stretching their capabilities into more ambient space, while still maintaining that high energy. New songs from the band’s 2008 record No Deliverance—”Flower” and “No Deliverance—a definitely worked within the context of the set, however, “I Come from the Water” and the band’s mega-hit “Possum Kingdom” satiated the crowd’s massive appetite for the days when MTV still played videos and cell phones were a foot-long.
Then there was “Tyler.” It’s the Toadies’ quintessential dark ballad. It’s a calculated, creepy catatonic love song that’s as woozy as it is beautiful. As Vaden crooned out the song’s final refrain, “I will be with her tonight,” the crowd couldn’t turn away or stop singing. Some things never change.
—Rick Florino (Artist Direct)