THE ODEON, CLEVELAND
FEBRUARY 25, 2003
It was a really cold night, even for Cleveland in the winter, clear skies refusing to shield us from the arctic chill of temperatures below five degrees. But inside the Odeon, the sold-out crowd was about to be warmed by the magic being created on stage by one of the legendary modern rock bands of the 1990s, Toad the Wet Sprocket. Teeth-chattering folks made their way into the club as the four-piece band from Boston, Wheat, was taking the stage. I could have done without the “Hello Cleveland” shout-out, but as natives here we get used to the played out Spinal Tap reference. With the lead singer’s voice resembling Better Than Ezra, Wheat played a bunch of rocking tunes from their Aware Records debut album due out this spring. The highlight was “Like to Know Better,” their contribution to the Aware 9 compilation.
Singer/songwriter Bleu was up next, and he had a pretty solid band backing him up. But the keyboard intro seemed to last drag on for 10 minutes, and Bleu had to do the unmentionable. Yes, “Hello Cleveland.” Memo to touring bands: This isn’t funny to us at all. Please just tell your friends back home you said it without really doing it, okay? Bleu redeemed himself, though, with a riveting song called “Somebody Else” which was on the Spiderman soundtrack. He then made the strange choice of covering Huey Lewis’ “Heart of Rock & Roll.” Okay, not strange in itself, but it wasn’t much different from the original version.
I’ve been a Toad fan since about the time the band split after being dropped by Columbia Records in 1997. So basically I’ve never seen them live until now, and I was not let down. They opened with “Whatever I Fear,” the first track off their last record, Coil. The magic of Glen Phillips’ vocals and percussive acoustic guitar along with the overdriven melodic lead guitar of Todd Nichols, and the haunting harmonies all brought goose bumps to my skin. They balanced recent (1995-98) material such as “Something’s Always Wrong,” “Rings,” “Fall Down” and one of my favorites off Dulcinea, “Crowing,” with songs from their early days.
Phillips changed things up by starting “All I Want,” perhaps the biggest Toad hit, on his acoustic and having the band join in. Other standouts were “Anything You Want” and “Windmills,” and of course the encore everyone knew was coming, “Walk on the Ocean,” their other big hit from 1991’s Fear.
At times it seemed like a combination yuppie-fest (the modern rockers from the 1990s are all in their late 20s and early 30s) and a who’s who of Cleveland rock. But most of the attention was focused on the stage, where there was no flashy light show or needless bantering. Tonight it was all about songs we know and love, and the magic that is Toad the Wet Sprocket.