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Toad puts on quite a show without glitz or gimmicks

Toad the Wet Sprocket is probably one of the music scene's more underrated bands. Sure, they have a clean sound with some pleasant arrangements, but there's so much more.

Even when the band landed on the lineup for the HORDE Festival that passed through the Canyons resort over the summer, its short, 30-minute set didn't do the Santa Barbara-based quartet any justice.That's one of the reasons why the Abravanel Hall gig Saturday was so good. That and the fact the band members sure know how to make good music without a lot of fuss, glitz and gimmicks.

Bassist Dean Dinning, drummer Randy Guss, guitarist Todd Nichols and vocalist/guitarist Glen Phillips casually took the stage and cranked out "Whatever I Fear," from Toad's most recent release, "Coil."

From there the band played a set composed of songs from all six Toad the Wet Sprocket releases.

"Something's Always Wrong" and "Good Intentions" were among the energetic and catchy tunes offered up during the evening. The songs pleased the nearly sold-out audience which stood, screamed, cheered, clapped, danced and sang along.

"This is one of the most beautiful venues we've ever been in," said Phillips admiringly.

Speaking of Abravanel Hall and, more important, its acoustics, Toad wisely kept the equipment volume at a low level and let the hall's design do the rest.

There were no feedback rings; no ear-tweaking screeches; no over-crashing symbols and no fuzz. Instead, all the instruments, including Phillips' vocals and mandolin, rang through the mix with a clean, clear sound.

This was true during a slower dynamic song called "Satisfied."

The newer songs, such as "Dam Would Break" and "Desire," brought a new texture to the Toad style. The moods on those songs were a little darker than the band's earlier tunes. But the grooves were still there and so were the emotions.

As for older songs, the crowd went wild with "Fall Down" and "All I Want." The music was right on. The band didn't waste a chord. In fact, they played to the audience and appeared to feed off its energy. And the ultimate audience-pleaser wasn't so much a song, but the fact the band asked an audience member to hit the stage and play the tambourine with the band.

"We are now fully interactive," Dinning joked.

What a great set.