Toadies, LIONS, Descender
December 30, 2009
Better than: Any other Toadies performance we've seen since the release of No Deliverance.
There wasn't much direct addressing of the crowd at last night's show, the first of two Toadies performances at Trees to close out 2009. The only time bandleader Vaden Todd Lewis directly spoke to his audience, he did so quickly, allowing just a few words.
"Trees, man," Lewis said to the crowd. "Fuckin' A. This is alright!"
Maybe not the most eloquent of speeches, but his point came across just fine.
Because here we are, a full 15 years after Lewis' band made its 1994 major-label debut, and here were were, in Trees, a venue the band had played so frequently in its early days.
Yes, there was truly something special about seeing the band back in this setting--especially because the Toadies looked relaxed, comfortable and excited about the opportunity. Indeed, the band was in its element last night, bounding about the stage while viscerally performing a wide range of songs from its catalog. And for pretty much the entirety of its more than 90-minutes-long show, the band was smiling.
For good reason: Like earlier Toadies shows from this year, it served as a reminder of the band's staying power, of the timeless nature of its guttural rock, and of the band's place in the pantheon of DFW rock greats. But the show also did more--like maybe show the band's recently re-ignited affection for its second studio full-length, 2001's Hell Below/Stars Above. Compared to earlier performances from the band, which largely culled their set lists from the band's storied 1994 debut Rubberneck and 2008's return-to-glory No Deliverance, this show saw the band willingly rattling off cuts from the sophomore release--and never more emphatically than on that album's title track, a surprisingly melodic turn from this rock outfit.
The crowd, of course, appreciated it all, crowd-surfing and bouncing and fist-pumping and screaming along with the band during this show, which, though not a full sell-out, felt every bit as much the homecoming party as the band's Palladium Ballroom show in August 2008.
The band's demeanor surely had something to do with it. So, too, did the venue's sound system.
Other big-sounding, loud rock acts have played Trees since its August 2009 re-opening, but no other band has yet flexed this room's sonic muscle quite as skillfully as the Toadies did last night. With each and every on-stage motion, the band purposefully squeezed out every decibel of power from the room's system. But it wasn't simply loud for loudness' sake; it was loud when it needed to be, though--and, so be it, that happened to make up the majority of this triumphant night's run.
Personal Bias: I've always loved Rubberneck, but, over the past couple of years, I've come to greatly respect the Toadies' stage show, too. This isn't a band simply running through the motions, capitalizing on a renewed affection as part of some reunion run. The Toadies' live show is a is a practiced lesson in how powerful hard rock like this doesn't have to come with the stereotypical theatrics. Instead, this band gets on stage, and visibly gets a kick out of giving the crowd a fun, high-energy show. There's an impressive casual nature to it all--especially since this music, especially when played at this volume, is hardly a casual listen. Really, in many ways, this is a band on the top of its game right now.
Random Note: The Old 97's closed out their four-night run at Sons of Hermann Hall, a few blocks west on Elm Street on this same night. Can't imagine too many people would've predicted that happening back at the start of '09. No complaining from this camp, though; it's been a fun week.
By The Way: Right across the street from Trees on this night, Americana bar La Grange made its grand opening. A beautiful space--maybe too nice, actually--the room drew a big crowd of Americana fans and Trees showgoers curiously popping their heads in for a minute. In tandem, these two venues should make for quite the one-two punch down in Deep Ellum.