Toad the Wet Sprocket at Starland Ballroom

Filed under: Live Music,Reviews — doktorjohn June 4, 2006 @ 2:40 am

Early nineties alterna-giants, Toad the Wet Sprocket have returned after an eight-year hiatus, and we were happy to catch them for a performance at Sayreville NJ’s Starland Ballroom, known to you old-timers as the Hunka Bunka Ballroom.

Opening band the Sixers set the mood for this sell-out audience of mild-mannered soft-rockers by orienting their songs and chit-chat to nostalgia for the recent collegiate life from which everybody seemed to have just returned. There were some mature—really mature—spectators in their—what?—40s and even 50s. Mostly, however the well behaved late-20s crowd identified with talk of recollections about beer swilling contests at school and exchanging stories about ducking the bully in the highschool yard. To end it off, and before Toad’s turn on the stage, the Sixers finished with a cover of the song that has become the anthem of that particular sub-culture, Neil Diamond’s 60s hit “Sweet Caroline.”

Toad the Wet Sprocket’s frontman Glen Phillips has been performing and recording solo work in the interim with backup of a band called Nickel Creek, so after opening with Toad masterpiece “Something’s Always Wrong” and hitting many of the Toad standards like “Crowing” and “Stupid” he sent the band on an offstage break while he performed his solo stuff including the memorable “Darkest Hour” and a cover of Huey Lewis’s “I Want a New Drug.”

After a third solo piece, the rest of Wet Sprocket returned to the stage to perform the beloved “Walk on the Ocean” and the disturbing “Hold Her Down.”
They still sound great, they still touch the heart and the soul with their characteristic twangy, splashy guitar, countrified cadenced rhythms, heavy hearted lyrics and Philips’s lilting vocals. Yes, he’s ten years older, and his voice a trifle deeper, less agile, but still deliciously mellow and full of sincerity, innocence and resignation. They ended with “Fall Down,” a driving but somber expression of anxiety and disillusionment. We ran out of energy so didn’t stay for encores

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