Toad the Wet Sprocket is back
…for a little while at least.
Monday night, back together for their P.S. Reunion Tour, Toad the Wet Sprocket fulfilled the fantasies of their NYC fans by returning to Irving Plaza for a second sold out show in a row.
First opening act Wheat left the usually open-minded, music-loving Toad audience unimpressed with a bland, uninspired performance. A shame, because singer Scott Levesque has a great voice that is unique and subtle and sincere in its plaintiveness. Unfortunately, it was lost and muddled in songs, soft and mellow on the album, that ended up just plain slow and mild live. The one song that began to catch the crowd’s attention, “World United” sung by guitarist Ricky Brennan, stopped short before it became truly interesting, a typical trait of Wheat’s best songs. It seems Wheat may not be ready yet for mass consumption.
Conversely, Alice Peacock certainly strutted her stuff onstage with a full band, giving her songs a depth and liveliness that seems to be just what her album is missing. A departure from her light, poppy sounding ballads, live Alice Peacock with sweet, sex-laced vocals, rocked out soulfully. Accompanied by a highly skilled John Lennon look-alike guitarist, Alice Peacock (is that her real name??) and band turned out songs like “Bliss” and “Alabama Boy” that would make Vonda Shephard’s stiff, poker-faced smile twitch in jealousy. And it didn’t hurt that the top of her red lacy panties played hide and seek with her low-rider, form-fitting pants throughout the thirty-minute set. Nice touch.
The real attraction of the night didn’t take the stage until 11 PM, a full three hours after the doors opened, but there were no complaints as Toad launched into their urgent and self-loathing anthem “Whatever I Fear” to the great approval of a highly charged and unmistakably wide-awake crowd. But then again these are patient people, having waited five years to see their beloved band again.
Nearing midnight on a Monday, Toad’s main fan base, formerly earnest and mellow ‘90s college students, now all grown up earnest and mellow yuppies (many likely needing to be places by eight AM the following morning), couldn’t seem to get enough of the band. Even lead singer Glen Phillips seemed pleasantly surprised at the audience’s enthusiasm, remarking something to the effect of “not expecting the crowd at an add-on show to be quite like this” to hearty cheers and whistles and the occasional female shrieking a request for him to “take it off.”
In great spirits, the band offered a great set to satisfy both casual fan and Toad devotees alike from their tambourine banging staple “Nightingale,” rarities “Rings” and “Stupid,” to crowd-pleasing minor hits “Something’s Always Wrong” and “Fall Down”, not to mention those two other songs everyone knows. Given the energy, the tightness, the great harmonies, for those that didn’t know any better, you’d never know they’d ever taken a five-year hiatus.
With his humbly honest and wistful vocals, Phillips, as if he hadn’t already, thoroughly charmed the audience with an acoustic rendition of Randy Newman’s “Political Science” and gave the fans a taste of what he’d been up to since his split from the band. His solo stuff is good: solid, passionate, and intellectual. However, followed by an average offering from Randy Guss and Todd Nichols’ band, Lapdog, the return to Toad’s beautifully idyllic “Windmills” only proved that simply, because they wholly complement each other, there is an undeniable chemistry when these guys get together. Individually, neither Phillips nor Lapdog has yet achieved quite the acclaim or popularity that they did together as a band.
Over the years, in their own quest for being and meaning, in both fun and seriousness, Toad has managed to produce works of great honesty, beauty, and of meaning. By tone, harmony, words, and voice, the message they convey, sometimes clear, sometimes subtle, is always the same: in the darkest of times, there is always hope, something that Toad fans have a great abundance of.
By the end of the show, fans exited satisfied even if left yearning for more and with the hope that the reunion is not merely a temporary one. The band’s decision to end with the more obscure “All Things in Time” is perhaps their answer to the oft-asked question, one that was certainly on everyone’s mind that night, “Will you guys get back together for real already?”
Unsure of their own future and with separate projects in the works, it seems the answer for now is all things in time. And Toad the Wet Sprocket is undoubtedly well worth the wait.