Toad the Wet Sprocket was not known as a must-see live band. The earnestness and gentleness in their music did not inspire a generation of radio listeners to flock to small amphitheaters and clubs when this Santa Barbara, CA quartet hit the stage. A live album would not seem obvious or necessary from Toad. It is curious for such a release to come several years after the band’s initial breakup and subsequent ill-fated (although thoroughly enjoyable) reunion tour.
But this is the show they released and while it might not have everything a Toad the Wet Sprocket fan could hope for there is plenty to enjoy on this album. The show opens with hit single “Walk on the Ocean.” The performance on this night has a ragged quality (particularly to Glen Phillip’s vocal) absent on the cleaner, smoother studio version of the song.
Other highlights from this show are “Stories I Tell” and “One Little Girl.” Toad in the studio tends to downplay the guitar. On these two tracks, Todd Nichols is given a little more room and the variation is welcome. The only disappointing track on the disc is “Fall Down.” “Welcome Home” features a similar yet different version of the song that would later be released on “Dulcinea.” Phillips’ vocals sound less confident than they do on other songs throughout the performance. “Fall Down” sounds like the new song being road tested that it was.
They wrote some great songs but this live album is a snapshot of a band still learning to deliver those songs in a concert setting. It also captures them at a period in their history before some of their best songs were written.
GRADE = C+