Toad Reunion Relies On Tour Success

Excerpted from the magazine for

Expectations are high for Toad the Wet Sprocket's national reunion tour, especially given that there are low expectations of the band staying together for the long-term.

After testing the touring waters by opening a few times for Counting Crows in December 2002 and hosting a New Year's Eve bash at Los Angeles' Roxy nightclub, Toad will, as previously reported, trek through 24 club and theater dates beginning Feb. 4 at the Grove in Anaheim, Calif. Charging a $20 average ticket price, it will finish March 9 at Norva Theatre in Norfolk, Va.

As far as whether performing together might help cement the reunion, Toad frontman Glen Phillips admits, "I have no idea. If we find this can be something that's really moving forward, we can keep it together. But if we do another album, it has to be the best album we've ever done -- otherwise, there's no point in doing this."

Tellingly, the reason why Toad disbanded, he says, is because as the group started laying down tracks for an album to follow 1997's "Coil," "it was going to be just average. We didn't think we could put something out and rest on our laurels -- we were never that cool."

In the early- to mid-1990s, when Toad was at its commercial peak, it caught a lot of critical flak for being too soft in a world of aggressive grunge. Yet these days, Toad seems at home with the resurgence of such popular acts as Dave Matthews Band and Phish.

Unlike many tours billed as reunions, Toad will include all of its original team, including singer Phillips, guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning, and drummer Randy Guss. It will also mark the first time Toad has welcomed a tour sponsor -- Icebreakers gum. "I've never been very keen on it," Phillips says of their embracing corporate involvement, "but it's a decent way to actually make it work."

Since breaking up, Phillips embarked on a solo career, issuing his debut CD, "Abulum" (Brick Red) in 2001. He is now collaborating with bluegrass act Nickel Creek for a follow-up project, while Nichols is involved with his new band, Lapdog. But Guss is optimistic the group will live on. He insists the tour is "not a nostalgia trip," because Toad is planning on trying out fresh material during shows, which would likely come from Phillips' and Nichols' new efforts.

Phillips notes that during the band's Dec. 31, 2002, concert at the Roxy, the crowd was surprisingly "really sober for a New Year's Eve show -- they were really listening."

Moreover, Guss thinks the story is not over for Toad because "I don't think that we made our best record yet. Toad might not be forever in the future, but I don't know why we would break up again."

Putting three or four new live songs from this tour onto an EP is one way Guss sees Toad initially slipping back into the recording groove.

What Phillips is looking to get out of the tour, however, "is to enjoy it for itself. It's going to be fun to play with a band. Fun to put on a rock show. This band is like a comfortable old shirt. We get together, and it immediately sounds good."

Excerpted from the Jan. 25, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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