Toadies at House of Blues, 5/9/2014
Photos by Jack Gorman
Toadies, Supersuckers House of Blues May 9, 2014
If playing their 1994 album Rubberneck front to back chafes the Toadies at all, they're being very good sports about it. The Fort Worth quartet has been on a nationwide tour all spring celebrating the 20th anniversary of the album, which bequeathed such unsettling anthems as "Possum Kingdom," "I Come From the Water" and "Tyler" to the angsty tenor of the times. ("I didn't realize how many of their songs were about rape," my brother said after the show, offering one not-uncommon interpretation.)
Rubberneck is not a long album at all, squeezing a lot of wrath and ire into just 11 songs. Friday night at House of Blues, as the Toadies steamed through it soup to nuts, it yielded the kind of feverish catharsis that comes from playing (and listening to) almost a dozen angry tunes very loudly and heavily, compounding the effect by barely pausing between them. Do that in front of a frisky, sold-out crowd for whom "well-lubricated" would be a charitable term, and the result was a first half-hour and change that felt both Pentecostal and demonic.
Those songs shifted somewhat in tempo and dynamics, to where "Possum Kingdom" was laid-back enough to allow for the huge buildup to Lewis shrieking "Do you wanna die?!" at the climax; while "I Come From the Water" almost became a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, so tightly did Doni Blair lock down its bass line. By comparison, "Backslider" and "Quitter" were just feral as Lewis and Clark Vogeler committed all sorts of guitar atrocities. But the set was all distinctly of a piece, exercises in tension and release that displayed a Pixies influence ranging from slight (opening instrumental "Mexican Hairless," a tribute to Toadies' old Metroplex compadres Rev. Horton Heat) to pronounced ("Tyler").
And appropriately enough for material shot through with such underlying rage, every song was greeted with a cheer that felt a little more savage each time, until they finally lost their shit for good when Lewis closed out "Velvet" by screaming "Mommy! Mommy!" Finally, he broke the tension after relatively subdued album closer "I Burn" -- it was like, "Where did that acoustic guitar come from?", so thick and choppy were the riffs that preceded it -- by asking, "Would you like to hear some songs that are less than 20 years old?"
What a card. Not that many people in the crowd Friday noticed, tuning out the instant they heard a song they didn't recognize, but the Toadies' great bait and switch is that they've improved quite a bit since the Rubberneck days. Sure, they can sound just as bugfuck crazy as they did in '95 ("Got a Heart"), while perhaps mellowing just a hair. "Push the Hand," for example, simply breathes heavy rather than hyperventilates. "Summer of the Strange" suggested they've grown downright sexy in spots, while a martini-dry cover of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" planted its big ol' tongue squarely in cheek, but did so with real reverence for the song's unshakable groove.
Of course that's not a word many people associate with the Toadies, "reverence." It was the '90s; people were angry. But as the band proved one more time Friday night, music makes a far better outlet for venting frustration and rage than some others that have come along since. Read an average comments section sometime?
Review continues on the next page.
And Your Opener: The Supersuckers call themselves "the greatest rock and roll band in the world," and never fail to play like they damn sure believe it; they've done so since the early, early '90s too. Baiting the crowd with Seahawks jokes, dropping a "motherfucker" or "fucked up" every other song, the Seattle bad, er, boys rawked like the byproduct of a profane lab experiment to crossbreed AC/DC and the Ramones. (Success!)
Mixing songs from their new LP Get the Hell with old fan favorites like "Pretty Fucked Up" and "Born With a Tail" with covers both perfectly logical (Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song") and bizarre (Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down Again"), they were brilliant in their naked rudeness and utter lack of couth. It's just too bad that Eddie Spaghetti (working a salt-and-pepper Billy Gibbons starter beard) couldn't hear the guy behind me who said, "you should have seen them in their prime" right after the band stopped. Because the one thing Friday night's show needed was a good ass-beating.
Personal Bias: Don't feel like it's a stretch at all to say that due to their morbid Joe Landsdale sense of humor and hell-for-leather execution, the Toadies are a perfect ZZ Top for the generation who came of age in the '90s.
The Crowd: About 1,600 of the area's finest beer drinkers and hell raisers. One guy near me could hardly stand up; someone else (or the same guy, who knows) later puked up whole chunks of pizza in the men's room. Chew your food, dude.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Wolfmother?! Holy shit, they're going to be here?" (Tonight, as a matter of fact.)
Random Notebook Dump: When is the last time people used the term "smoke a doob" in everyday conversation?
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