The 100 Club, London

The Toll
The 100 Club, London

13 March 1989

Verdict: Remarkable…frustrating

‘Good Morning, the circus is coming to town today/Line the streets and don’t be late’

- Jazz Clone Clown

I was looking at Brad Circone’s eyes. You can tell a lot from people’s eyes. Some look depressed, dull, enveloped in mediocrity. In Circone’s case, they’re not so much windows into his soul as opaque enigmas. They only allow you to glimpse patches of the rage, unpredictability and sheer frustration the man must be feeling. The Toll, you see, are victims of their own circumstances. Whenever you try and interpret your own thoughts and ideas into something tangible others can relate to (be it on paper, on canvas or onstage) then inadequacies will always arise. The more depth and electricity there is to the idea, the greater that feeling of frustration.

Circone (vocalist/guitarist/pianist with The Toll) is a remarkable man. Someone for whom the art of communication is perhaps the most frustrating thing of all. He wants people to listen to his tales of pain, dishonour and betrayal through the likes of ‘Jonathan Toledo’, ‘Word of Honor’, ‘Living In The Valley Of Pain’ and ‘Anna-41-Box’. But they only stand and stare, waiting for him to do something manic, something outrageous, something off-the-wall. Einstein came to lecture, but all they wanted were the jugglers!

Maybe I’m being rather too cynical. However, when I see a performer as unique and magnetic as Circone reduced to climbing on tables and amps simply to get attention, then I feel saddened. To me, it was the look in his eye, the threat in his voice and the imposition of his personality that mattered tonight. That made me feel at the end of the evening that The Toll are remarkable and special, not the circus clowning.

Some might wish to compare The Toll to Jane’s Addiction. I’d say that Circone has the genius, but JA have the talent. Some might want to suggest The Doors or U2 and I wouldn’t dispute these frames of reference. But tonight, I saw The Toll. But I’ve a feeling most of the others here weren’t watching… and that disappoints me. This band will be huge… but on whose terms?

Brad Circone and his troops (guitarist/vocalist Rick Silk, drummer/vocalist Brett Mayo and bassist/vocalist Greg Bartram) are out on their own. They have to weigh integrity against commercial pressures. I hope the compromise isn’t too damaging.

Malcolm Dome

‘RAW’ Magazine issue 16 (April 5-18 1989)