Toadies: Rubberneck 20th Anniversary Tour
With Supersuckers and Battleme
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, April 11, 2014
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of their full-length debut, Rubberneck, Texas alt-rockers Toadies stopped by First Avenue on Friday. Supported by Supersuckers and Battleme, they played through the album in its entirety and were met with an enthusiastic and responsive crowd.
Portland's Battleme seemed unknown to the growing crowd but they grabbed people's attention with a strong set of straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. "I already love you so much better than St. Louis last night", said lead singer Matt Drenik, who maintained a great stage presence as he ran through songs he wrote and recorded himself, with the help of a tight backing band. He praised First Avenue and was clearly excited to play here, and finished with a cover of Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My" dedicated to the recently deceased dog of one of the Supersuckers,
The Supersuckers were huge and loud, sporting Dukes of Hazzard fashion and appropriately showy guitar solos. The Tucson band has been around for ages now and are showing no signs of slowing up. They ran through a long set that included new material from their latest record Get the Hell. It was a fitting opener, bringing as much huge rock energy as the headliners but with a different flavor, and they had a few moments that almost stole the show.
The Eddie Spaghetti-fronted, self-proclaimed "Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band In the World" and their cowpunk approach kept things lively. They toyed with the audience by announcing their final song before launching into blistering guitar solos, Thin Lizzy covers, middle finger salutes, and false endings. It was a meaty set that covered a range of eras and sides to their sound, showcasing their twang and their power-pop chops in quick succession.
Shortly afterwards Toadies came out to the driving riff of instrumental "Mexican Hairless," which launched a set of Rubberneck played from front to back. The album is short and punchy, using off-kilter timing and big blues progressions to deliver some standout post-grunge, and the execution onstage did it justice. The guitars were brash and screechy in just the way you'd want them to be. Vaden Todd Lewis's voice is still commanding, hitting young man notes with a scream as loud and tuneful as ever.
The crowd was packed and the majority of them knew every word. They were enthusiastic too, pogoing and moshing along to songs like "I Come From the Water" and "Rattler's Revival" and singing the choruses of slower songs like "Away" and "Tyler." After bringing out an acoustic guitar for the gigantic album closer "I Burn," assisted by two stagehands wailing on floor toms and snares, the huge cheers and waving lighters ushered in the second portion of the set. "We've got songs that aren't 20 years old," Lewis said, and the band jumped into "Push the Hand" from their 2001 return to music, Hell Below/Stars Above.
The rest of the set covered their four latest records, none of which charted quite like Rubberneck did, but the songs retained the album's unique quality. Their biggest hit, "Possum Kingdom," sat towards the top of the set and stole some of the enthusiasm usually reserved for the ending section of a set, but post-encore closers "Sweetness" and "Hell In High Water" served a huge farewell to the excited fans. Cover songs, like Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and Pylon's "Stop It" (featured on the recent Rubberneck re-release) added a touch of variety but fit well into the overall set.
The Toadies sound works wonders at the half-hour mark where their classic debut cuts off. They've got a number of great songs beyond that, and the audience really appreciated the lengthy set. It was a nostalgic night, and the songs still sound great two decades later. It's nice to see a band still going strong and maintaining a solid fanbase, and it was overall an impressive night of rock 'n' roll.
Personal Bias: I was only really familiar with Rubberneck prior to this show.
The Crowd: Older, energetic.
Overheard In The Crowd: A cheer to the late Ultimate Warrior.
Random Notebook Dump: Holding a cell phone up in place of a lighter during "I Burn" didn't quite meet the vibe but good effort.
I Come From The Water
Push The Hand
Summer Of The Strange
Heart Of Glass (Blondie)
Stop It (Pylon)
Hell In High Water
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