The Toadies are a different breed of 90s band. It is easy to write them off as a one hit wonder (or one album wonder) of sorts but what they have done in their career goes much deeper than that. Their non-apologetic thunderous roar is still echoing through venues across the US a full 20 years after their landmark album Rubberneck broke. The problem with Rubberneck is that it’s the album everybody knows and because of being screwed over by their record label they lost all their momentum as their second album was scrapped and the even the firmest grip on their fans’ attention tended to slip away. The result is their fanbase attaching themselves to the first record and not knowing the other material near as well.
So now 20 years later they have the album everybody knows every word to and four other records filled with great rockabilly inspired Texas boogie that even attendees of a Toadies show don’t necessarily know the words to them. For this tour the band decided to let the dominoes fall where it they may and honor Rubberneck and let their other underappreciated work stay that way until their next tour at least. So where do the incredibly hard rock festivities commence? Why at Knucklehead’s Saloon, the home of Kansas City honky tonk of course.
Ume would open and not play to the honky tonk side of things one bit either. With lead singer/only guitarist Lauren LL leading the band with her good looks, rough Courtney Love vocal stylings and excessive guitar shredding, their shows are never boring. Also on the energetic side is bassist Eric Larson who is far from a shoegazer and the hard hitting of drummer Aaron Perez. Lauren LL steals the show though, singing through her blonde hair, straining her vocal chords along the way and flailing around stage in a dress while slinging her guitar around. Her vocals would intentionally be buried under the thick tone of her guitar and the thump of the drums and bass. Ume would come out to a huge void in front of the stage but quickly pushed into their energetic stage show like every person there was pushed up against them. Their energetic noise rock was infectious enough to draw the crowd closer almost immediately and soon they were greeted by a group of fans adjacent to the stage wanting more of what they were dishing out.
The Toadies came out of the backstage door to a roar of applause and would get the celebrated Rubberneck out of the way instantly without lead singer Vaden Todd Lewis saying one word in-between songs. From the start of the ferocious instrumental “Mexican Hairless” to the climactic “I Burn” they would play the album in order, quickly and efficiently. The loudest the crowd would get would be on the smash single “Possum Kingdom” and the Knucklehead’s faithful would eat up every word of “Tyler” while singing along. The album is not short on great songs like the burning “Away” and confrontational “Quitter” but the highlights would be the smashing grind of Clark Vogeler’s guitar on “Possum Kingdom” and the hungry fans anticipating every hook laden line of the song and of course the closing tune “I Burn.” “I Burn” would see Lewis wielding an acoustic guitar for the only time during the set and drummer Mark Reznicek’s pounding floor tom wouldn’t be enough as members of UME would each bring out their own to help get the song as eerie as it could sound. Their pounding in unison was accented by one of the additional drummers even hitting Rezicek’s symbol behind his back at the appropriate time. As it always seems to happen at Knucklehead’s, a train would go by on the tracks that lie about 50 feet from the venue walls at the most appropriate time too, during the slow burning song.
While “I Burn” would clearly steal the entire show The Toadies would delve into songs from their other four records after finishing it off. They would play “Push The Hand” “Little Sin” and the down-tempo “Dollskin” all off of their sophomore album Hell Below/Stars Above. They would hit their very strong album No Deliverance a couple times by playing the title track and “Hell In High Water” as a closer to end the set early at 11:00. They would take a puzzling shot at Blonde’s “Heart of Glass” which Lewis would simply (and appropriately) shrug his shoulders at after finishing as well as play a Rubberneck b-side with the song “Stop It” while being joined by Lauren LL on guitar. The night would obviously belong to Rubberneck though, the crowd got to celebrate a huge album in their lives and the band got to deliver it to them. It was a good sign when Lewis would look of the venue attendees and say “As long as you keep doing this, we’ll keep coming back.” It is difficult not to look forward to the next time that happens.
Toadies setlist from Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 7/31/14:
- Mexican Hairless
- Mister Love
- Possum Kingdom
- I Come From The Water
- Happy Face
- I Burn
- Push The Hand
- Little Sin
- No Deliverance
- Heart of Glass (Blonde cover)
- Rattler’s Revival
- encore break
- Stop It (Pylon cover)
- Hell In High Water