You haven’t paid much attention to life if you don’t know this phenomenal band. In fact, I can honestly say, you haven’t lived life if you haven’t seen them live, at least once! With a career spanning over 40 years and an impressive list of achievements, they are some of THE BEST EVER musicians/songwriters/composers/vocalists (etc) to have ever walked this Earth and are deserving of every accolade they have received. I am more than happy to deify artists like this who are worthy.
As their gigs are so rare and special for us here in Australia, it becomes a life event when we know Toto are coming to town. After a long and torturous wait of almost 12 years, to say we were anticipating this tour, is an understatement. As a proud and bona fide Toto devotee, I snapped up some VIP tickets as soon as they were on sale. Just thinking about the soundcheck, and the actual gig, was enough to get those stomach butterflies tingling.
As the VIP ticket holders were excitedly lining up, way before the due time, their passion and loyalty for Toto was a sight to behold. To just get a small glimpse of the Masters at work in their natural environment was like a music fan’s wet dream. We were all so in awe, you could feel the mental absorption going on within the group as the soundcheck took place. What I wouldn’t do to sit in on a practice or recording session with a band like this… what Toto fan hasn’t fantasised about the same thing? With smiles and contentment all around, it was a night of wickedness we will never forget. We then had the pleasure of happy snaps and autographs until the doors opened to the general public and then it was a race for the coveted spots at the front of stage. Fans, young and old, parents with kids, all clambering to get the best view of one of the most talented bands in the history of music. One fervent VIP male fan remarked “I’m going to stand right in front of Luke” and indeed he did. Like a flash, he was gone and even scored a couple of guitar picks for his effort. The venue filled quickly and it was a joy to chat with fans from all walks of life. Young music students to my left, expressing their love for a band that has been going strong for way more than twice their age, and a lovely Colombian couple to my right, who like me, have waited 12 years for another chance to see their musical idols. Just as the dance floor was full, I couldn’t see an available seat anywhere. The venue was heaving and Sydney was in total summer party mode. What a way to start our musical calendar for the year! This will be one concert that will be very, very hard to top.
Before I headed out, I did something I don’t often do and that is check setlist.fm. Toto has such a rich and diverse catalogue to choose from, I needed to know some of what could be on offer from their trove of endless music. Covering every era of their astonishing multi-decade career, this was one great set list. Opening with ‘Alone’ from the newer ’40 Trips From The Sun’ album, it was a perfect start to our eagerly awaited night of musical pleasure. I adore this song and Williams’ vocals are superb. Lukather and S.Porcaro are pure perfection. We are only a few bars in and every note is more than 100%, it’s totally ethereal! I’m loving hearing Williams on this tour too, after having the wonderful Bobby Kimball on the last tour, it’s like we’ve been spoilt even more so. Every version of this band is just another spectacular variation. Up next is seventies rock classic, ‘Hold The Line’ at its finest, and it’s like I’m a kid again, sitting on my bedroom floor and listening on some early FM radio. Faultless! You close your eyes and everything is as it was, and what a treat to hear ‘Lovers In The Night’ playing tonight. That luscious Toto layering in full swing. Everyone is on fire, having a blast and giving us the very best of the best tonight. We already don’t want the night to end.
The reworked ‘Spanish Sea’ makes an appearance and is a great fresh addition to our favourites. Then we hear ‘I Will Remember’ from the Tambu album. I have always admired Lukather’s vocals on this track. Remembering those who have left this Earth too early, including the always missed Jeff and Mike Porcaro, Lukather gives us a sublime and personal live performance that is just spine tingling. From slow to hard core, we get an absolute cracker with ‘English Eyes’… WOW! The Hordern is just pumping. It’s all sweat and instruments being hammered like they’ve never been hammered before, with hair flying everywhere, on stage and off. I can feel beads of sweat running down my back. There’s no doubt I’m not the only one doing my best to not lose focus as there were so many extended versions of songs tonight that came across as much fiercer. By the time we got to ‘Jake To The Bone’.. it was bam! Another epic performance, so intense and even more killer, live. Like a guitar god, Lukather is just as brutal as always and every band member working with him… S.Porcaro and Williams; Xavier, Castro, Ham, Shem and Forrest made it look so effortless even though not everyone has been playing together for a long time. Weaving in and out musically and vocally, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and seamless line up. Knowing how complex Toto music really is, we’re getting a great lesson in regards to what some marvellously talented humans are capable of, and I must say, it does restore some faith. By the time ‘Lea’ came on, it was a nice break to catch some breath and revel. Every song, as the night progressed, was just as brilliant as the last, and this Sydney crowd was so voracious that when the first few bars of ‘Rosanna’ kicked in, it was bedlam. Take us back Toto! Like many, I’m still watching your music clips after all these years, and it never gets old.
It’s impossible to choose favourites as we want them all. So when the acoustic sampler set came on, it was a great way to pop some more songs in and tell us more background stories. Who doesn’t enjoy the old school ‘Georgy Porgy’ and the blissful ‘Human Nature’, made famous by Michael Jackson but written by S.Porcaro. It’s a never-ending plethora of masterpieces and it’s so hard to contain your excitement. I look around and there is just worshipping all across the venue, it’s difficult to explain the happiness I see on everyone’s face. I relished hearing ‘Holyanna’ and ‘No Love’ but I was especially thrilled when our final track for this diamond part of the night was ‘Stop Loving You’. With the magic vocals of Williams, it’s yet another showcase of Toto brilliance. Simply stunning!
We were then given an introduction to the uber talented Xavier, who has been covering for the irreplaceable Paich for the last six months of this tour. Not only did he just give us a smashing solo but he delivers a memorable performance playing and dancing throughout the night. What a career, touring with the legendary Toto after a history that includes playing with Prince’s band, and so young, with such a big future ahead, bravo!
Our next gem during this unforgettable night is ‘Girl Goodbye’, and how can you not be happy once you hear those keys and that synth sound? It’s such a high energy song and it was just pedal to metal; raw, ferocious and unrelenting, with all vocals again at an exceptional level. This myriad of instruments, lyrics and vocals, all intertwining, turn each song into its own book. Toto have their own way of creating a universe unto itself that they really are in a league of their own. It’s more than a pleasure to be here and take in as much as you can while studying these Masters.
Another delicious addition to tonight’s show was ‘Lion’ from the ‘Isolation’ album, which I love. I’m pleased we get to hear a couple of tracks from that LP tonight; as well as hearing Williams ace those Fergie vocals. We get another treasure with ‘Dune (Desert Theme)’, which was just exquisite. I so clearly remember reading the movie credits all those years ago and being dumbstruck by yet another Toto stroke of brilliance, how can so few men create so much and yet remain so humble? This was a heavenly mix of Toto tracks tonight, just genius. Then a beautiful George Harrison tribute of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ was up next until we get a couple more ‘Toto IV’ album classics: ‘Make Believe’ and of course ‘Africa’ to lead us towards the encore. You can only imagine the mayhem when ‘Africa’ started, the wholehearted singing and dancing that took place. Sydney was pretty rowdy from the get go, expressing their love and enthusiasm for their musical favourites but this became another entity altogether. I certainly didn’t expect the young musos next to me to start slam dancing. Jumping and fist pumping, they couldn’t contain their hysteria, it’s a vision I’ll never forget.
As a rousing ovation erupted throughout the venue, Toto graced us once again with a heavy Weezer cover of ‘Hash Pipe’ (which just ripped the song to pieces and gave it so much edge) before another ovation. Could we possibly be witnessing a new age of Toto influence? Gosh, we hope so! With new songs and a great new cover version, this feels like a resurgence of mammoth proportions from a band so deserving and that many of us knew always rocked it with the best.
Moving out into the glorious summer heat, the satisfaction from all the adoring fans was everywhere you looked. Not just in how everyone was smiling and talking about each concert highlight, but in how they all walked and held their heads up. It’s so fascinating to watch the happiness that is brought to each and every one of us Toto fanatics. What an affect and what a legacy to leave musically and soulfully. We really need a Toto weekend festival, or possibly one of those rock cruises with just Toto for 3 days straight. Is that too much to ask for? This night had everything you wanted from a gig, and more. Other-worldly musicianship, the most devoted music fans and just a pure appreciation of one of the most important bands that reflect a crucial part of life that makes the world go around: music.
Sydney bows down to you, Toto. You gave us a blessed night and if there are musical Gods, then please don’t make us wait another twelve years!
© MARINA KNEZEVIC 2019. All Rights Reserved.
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