Age looks good on the Toadies.
The Fort Worth band opened the eighth annual Dia de los Toadies festival at Panther Island Pavilion Friday night with an acoustic evening before Saturday's all-day lineup of local rock and roll bands, which culminates with a second headlining set by the fest founders. But this acoustic performance felt a little extra special.
The Toadies are mere days away from releasing a new album, entitled Heretics, on Sept. 18, and true to the name, it maintains a clear departure from the alt-rock vibe that made them local legends.
As the story goes, this annual Friday night performance is what inspired the album. Toadies singer and front man Vaden Todd Lewis previously told GuideLive that the more the band played with acoustic arrangements, the more intrigued they became with the newfound sound. Lewis went as far as to call Heretics "bizarre," but the band looked nothing short of the best version of itself on the festival's opening night.
To come full circle, it seemed the album inspired the live show this time around. A sizable crowd came to hear reimagined favorites like "Backslider," which took on a sultry vibe jazzed up by tenor saxophone, and "The Appeal," which felt bluesy to the bone. The Toadies' newly written songs for the album, however, proved why their current direction is so alluring.
The Toadies unearthed emphasized melody and complexity to their sound that speaks well beyond nostalgia. The band isn't trying to be the 1990s hey-day rendition of itself, instead showcasing a maturity likely to cultivate a new fanbase (though no one is denying the old diehards will still be there).
One listen to Heretics single "Belly of a Whale" and the transformation is obvious. Not that it happened overnight -- remember, the annual performance inspired the album. In 2013, the Toadies perhaps hinted at what was to come with a funk-infused version of "Rattler's Revival" featuring the Honeybear Horns. Regardless of the circumstance, it feels like a graceful step onward and upward.
Adding to the awesomeness of the acoustic evening was D-FW's indie rock darling Sarah Jaffe, who used the rare solo opportunity to dig back into her archive of staples, including "Mannequin Woman," "Glorified High" and "Clementine." Little can be said of the flawlessness of Jaffe's vocal performance, except that it's no shock she's made national waves. She certainly deserves the credit.
The two local powerhouses collaborated for a couple of Toadies songs, including "Beside You" and "Dollskin," and the Toadies played a few honky tonk-leaning numbers with Matt Hillyer from Eleven Hundred Springs. But even considering, it's hard to pick just one highlight of the evening.
My advice: Buy the new Toadies album and experience it for yourself.