Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Toad the Wet Sprocket kicks off 2020 return at The Coach House

Toad the Wet Sprocket at The Coach House on Jan. 28, 2020.
Photo: Bob Steshetz
Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sean Watkins
Where: The Coach House
When: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020
Upcoming concerts: Visit for upcoming tour dates, as well as RSVP experiences for all dates

Review by Robert Kinsler

Photography by Bob Steshetz

For 90 wonderful minutes on Tuesday night (Jan. 28, 2020), all seemed well in the world.
Glen Phillips in concert.

Returning to the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA after a break of four years, Toad the Wet Sprocket kicked off their 2020 tour with an outstanding performance in front of an enthusiastic capacity crowd.

Toad the Wet Sprocket was of the great melodic rock troupes of the 1990s. The quartet emerged out of Santa Barbara in 1986 and went on to create a slew of terrific and enduring favorites including "Walk on the Ocean," "All I Want," "Fall Down," "Something's Always Wrong" and many more before calling it quits in 1998.

Fortunately, singer-guitarist Glen Phillips, lead guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning and drummer Randy Guss began playing together again on a limited basis in 2006 leading up to a full-scale reunion in 2010 and another outstanding full-length masterpiece (New Constellation) in 2013. Although Guss stopped touring with the band a few years ago, the group's appearance in Orange County on Tuesday showcased a great band still at the height of their powers.
Todd Nichols at The Coach House.

Toad the Wet Sprocket opened with "The Moment," one of the potent originals from New Constellation: "There is nothing but the moment," Phillips sang during the song. "Don't waste it on regret."

That luxurious art rock gem was greeted with wild cheers.

"Thank you," Phillips said, adding: "Hello."

And so the night went with the band (Phillips, Nichols, Dinning joined by touring drummer Josh Daubin and an multi-instrumentalist who helped fully bring the songs to life) revisiting beloved songs from across their wonderful discography. 
Dean Dinning in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

Early highlights included the yearning "Crowing," infectious "All I Want," artful "Golden Age" and dynamic "Fly From Heaven." Although the band had not performed in public since last summer, this was a night where the band's greatness was on display with every offering.

The spirited "Rings" was bolstered by Nichols' gleaming guitar lines. Another highlight was "Enough," an ambitious art rocker that started out gently and grew to a satisfying roar and featured some of Phillips' most soaring vocals of the concert.

Further showcasing Toad the Wet Sprocket's broad approach was "I Will Not Take These Things for Granted." Phillips launched into the folk rocker accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar, before the song's arc lifted and the other musicians joined in to complete the track.

From left, Glen Phillips, Dean Dinning, and Josh Daubin at The Coach House.
A really fun segment had Dinning joining Daubin at his kit for a drum solo featuring tandem pounding from the two players in an exciting introduction to a number of the group's most well-known songs. 

Glen Phillips
Indeed, the regular set included exceptional versions of "Crazy Life" (with Nichols on lead vocals), the driving "Fall Down," before the musicians returned to the stage for a terrific one-two punch encore of the "Something's Always Wrong" and a mandolin-adorned "Walk on the Ocean."

Opening the night was singer-songwriter/guitar master Sean Watkins, known for his long-time role as one-third of San Diego's wonderful Nickel Creek.

His set allowed the crowd to hear his joyful and impressive gift of song craft and dazzling fretwork on his acoustic instrument. He was even joined by Phillips for several cuts at the end of his appearance.

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