Review: Toadies, Helmet at The Vogue

 

This year has felt like a return to the ’90s thanks to many of that decade’s acts releasing new albums. Bands like Garbage, Soul Asylum and the Smashing Pumpkins all left dormancy to update their signature sounds.

Fellow stalwarts the Toadies and Helmet also are on that list. Both returned to Indianapolis Friday after a years-long absence, playing to a packed house at The Vogue.

The Toadies are touring behind their fifth full-length, Play.Rock.Music, released last month. But it’s the 1994 debut Rubberneck that continues to be their popular pinnacle. The Texas rockers played eight selections from that auspicious collection, each getting a rise from the audience. “Possum Kingdom” was mandatory, but the slowly-erupting “Tyler” and avalanching “Mister Love” still have their sharp edges.

Later material has dutifully maintained the quartet’s rollicking roadhouse brand of punk-ethos rock. The new “Rattler’s Revival” is a strong enough addition to the canon to make the encore, while “No Deliverance” and “Push the Hand” kept attendees engaged.

Singer/guitarist Todd Lewis has managed to keep his spirits intact despite years of record label tumult that stalled the Toadies’ career. Looking like a disquieted Tom Bergeron when he took his glasses off, Lewis was gracious to his audience all night, even granting a request to play former Texan the Reverend Horton Heat’s “400 Bucks” despite not having tried it in months.

The finale “I Burn” took on new life thanks to the addition of three drummers, including Helmet’s and opening act Ume. Helmet took a more no-frills approach to its staccato-formed aggression, a sound that was trailblazing in its time but paved the way for hundreds of bitch Helmets. With cropped and balding grey hair, founder Page Hamilton looks like he should’ve retired to a desk job years ago. Don’t tell him though. He seemed right at home spewing chainsaw-throated ditties like “In the Meantime” and humping his amplifier stack during a chasm-opening rendition of “Tic.”

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