Two decades after their first release and a dozen years since they played Pittsburgh, Toad the Wet Sprocket (TTWS) was warmly welcomed back to the Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead in Munhall stage. Dean Dinning (bass, backing vocals, keyboards), Randy Guss (drums), Todd Nichols (guitar, tambourine, vocals) and Glen Phillips (vocals, guitars), along with Johnny Hawthorn (lapsteel guitar, mandolin, electric guitar) performed a well received 90-minute set, which included a 3-song encore. This was their first show together in awhile and it was not without some opening night glitches. Phillips started on the electric guitar and when he tried to switch to acoustic guitar, he wasn't able to get sound. There was some minor problems at times when he continued to switch between guitars. Phillips also forgot the lyrics at one point to "Nightingale Song" (while the audience continued to sing along) and had to start the song again. Jennifer came out of the audience to "sing" along on "Butterflies". The familiar songs were all there: "All I Want", "Come Back Down", "Fall Down", "Good Intentions" and "Nanci". Phillips commented that his oldest daughter is just a few years younger than he was when he was a teenager writing songs for TTWS. Nichols and Dinning also took turns on lead vocals. The audience was standing for the encore, which included "Come Down" and ended with "Walk On The Ocean" (my personal favorite!). The fact that TTWS can reunite for shows from time to time and still bring a comfort level to the stage after all these decades is commendable. The band members look and sound youthful and still seem to enjoy playing Toad music. "Walk On The Ocean" was a fitting finale, with the strains of "... grow sweeter each season to slowly grow old" echoing in the venue.
Glen Phillips at the 05.02.09 TTWS show:
Opening the show: Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers (SK6ERS). This was the first show for the MA based trio, after they spent time recently entertaining the troops. Band members include Stephen Kellogg (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), with multi-instrumentalists who also provided back-up vocals: Boots Factor (drums, percussion) and Kit Karlson (bass, accordion and tuba, yes tuba). They did an 8-song, 40-minute set. Kellogg reminds me of a cross between Elvis Costello and Glen Phillips. He looks like Costello, sounds vocally like Phillips. "4th of July" is a 3-minute pop hit of their story. "Milwaukee" received the longest applause. Kellogg did an extended version taking us in a rap from the ages of 20, 25, 28, to 30 into a steak house singing Tom Petty songs. Their final song, "Big Easy", involved audience participation with us going round and round in the air with our hands. Kellogg greeted fans and signed CD's in the venue lobby at intermission. I was impressed when Kellogg extended his hand to shake my hand and then signed my CD's. Their new CD, "The Bear", will be released September 8th.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host