Let’s see if I can remember how to do this…
Toad the Wet Sprocket hit Revolution Hall in Portland on Friday for the penultimate date of their 44 city tour to promote their seventh album Starting Now playing six off the new record in a 21 song setlist that stretched 90 minutes.
A pretty relaxed affair all evening, certainly aligning with the band’s music of easy-going tempos with a penchant for the sentimental, as the probably near 80 percent of capacity crowd seemed simply content with watching a concert, perhaps for some, the first time in nearly two years as the country now seems on the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic albeit with some exceptions. The band dressed in clothes you’d wear to Costco and singer Glen Phillips made himself comfortable squishing a carpet in between his toes.
Like having friends over, who play in a band, for an evening of music but with all the necessary components for an authentic live show.
More than 30 years after forming and 25 years since college girls swooned to their hits, Toad the Wet Sprocket remains steadfast to their music and even relevant, sounding as current today as they did in their 90s heyday. Phillips hasn’t lost an octave and the rest, guitarist Todd Nichols, Dean Dinning on bass and drummer Josh Daubin along with a touring musician who added keyboards and a sixth who joined occasionally on guitar while doubling as Phillips guitar tech, mirrored every song just as you’d expect off their representative albums.
The band opened the show with the “Best of Me” wasting no time introducing a track off Starting Now but without singer Michael McDonald’s (Doobie Brothers) studio contribution. Phillips began the show and song walking on stage alone, acoustic guitar in hand and one by one the rest of the band joined him a cappella for a version that surpassed the original recording.
Then they got to work, each according to their own instruments as they dropped in one of the more popular hits “All I Want” off 1991’s fear then returned to their latest with “Hold On” before three-straight, “Crowing,” “Fly From Heaven” and “Windmills,” off their smash 1994 album Dulcinea.
A well-represented setlist touched every record except one, of course plenty off Dulcinea, and a number of deep cuts that served as reminders of the breadth of their catalog. Toad the Wet Sprocket excels at the affectionate, not necessary love songs, but those that get you to reflect whether on the past or current circumstances.
Phillips wrote “Fever,” the moving closing track off Starting Now, after visiting his old stomping grounds in California left bare from a fire, and the band delivered, but mostly Phillips who took the reigns vocally, on this sombre and one of the band’s best tracks. The wistful “Transient Whales,” also off the new album, shows the band contemplating a quickly moving life almost lamenting about times gone by.
Toad countered with plenty of upbeat and catchy songs including “Whatever I Fear” off 1997’s Coil, “Brother” from their compilation album In Light Syrup, going back to their start for “Way Away” off their 1989 debut Bread and Circus and the great, but way too short, “Nightingale Song” which came near the end of the evening and finally got much of the crowd off their seats with a little encouraging from Phillips then finished off with a short drum solo as Dinning helped Daubin in a boisterous display.
A fine performance from Nichols who took the mic for “Crazy Life” which made you long for the 90s to escape the current crazy life and Toad the Wet Sprocket closed the main set with their stellar rocker “Fall Down.” No Toad show is complete though without singing about “Good Intentions” and of course the contemplative ballad “Walk on the Ocean” which ended the evening.
Toad the Wet Sprocket broke up in 1998 but reunited in 2006 and parted ways with original drummer Randy Guss in 2020. Just two albums since getting back together but they still have a strong past to prop them up and a well-positioned future starting… now.
Toad the Wet Sprocket Portland Setlist:
- The Best of Me
- All I Want
- Hold On
- Fly From Heaven
- Starting Now
- California Wasted
- Good Intentions
- Whatever I Fear
- Game Day
- Way Away
- Transient Whales
- The Moment
- Nightingale Song
- Crazy Life
- Fall Down
- Something’s Always Wrong
- Walk On the Ocean