The Austin Chronicle

Live Shots

Reviewed by Michael Chamy, March 16, 2001, Music


Tower Records In-Store, Saturday 17

Scratch that one off the list, saw 'em already. That's how the system's supposed to work: See 'em during the day so you can see someone else at night. Saturday's Tower Records in-store by the Toadies promised to be far less hassle than the Stubb's showcase later in the evening, which it certainly was, even if standing in the middle of all the gathered teen queens wasn't quite so hip. Unfortunately, nobody pointed out beforehand that Ft. Worth's resident lords of rock would be playing an acoustic set. So much for hearing the thick granite slab of fury that represents the Toadies' brand-new Hell Below/Stars Above. Instead, fierce, pummeling acoustic abuse had to suffice, with Todd Lewis' vocals taking on even greater prominence. As the crunchy "Possum Kingdom" riff flitted into the air, everybody was a swarm of strained necks, since nobody could seem to locate the Toadies. "Are they lying down?" was a question asked more than once, and soon became a punchline, as the band was invisible to the untrained eye, sitting on the extremely low Tower stage in front of an endless wall of bodies. So the Toadmen were up at the plate with two strikes against them: no electricity and no visibility. They were on the verge of whiffing like a peg-legged amateur against Pedro Martinez when Lewis pulled out the secret weapon: "Tyler," the slow-burning love song named after a boring East Texas town. Lewis was in vintage vocal form with the "I will be with her tonight!" cry that sounds like a living, breathing slice of the almighty Nineties. Sadly, the music couldn't match Lewis' heavy vocal artillery, but the point was made nonetheless. The incessant hammering was reminiscent of ex-Austin acoustic basher Hamell on Trial, though only on the stellar "I Burn" did it serve as more help than hindrance. Drummer Mark Reznicek's pounding metronome tangled with the swamp-stomp clatter to form a tense soup with Lewis' fist-clenching vocal strain. And just when it seemed they'd played all their cards, they busted out what sounded like another one of those deliciously familiar Toadies anthems. But wait, they didn't have that many hits off Rubberneck -- this number was courtesy of their direct forefathers, the Pixies. "Where Is My Mind?" fit so perfectly into the mix that half the crowd was singing along without even realizing it wasn't an original. Lewis always did have plenty of Black Francis in him, and even a high-profile female bassist in the smiling Lisa Umbarger. Looks like Lewis & Co. smashed a solid two-strike single on this day.

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