Lead singer Joseph Williams brought an energetic and animated liveliness to the stage. The key word this night was fun. From the moment I hit sound check to the end of the night it was nothing but fun for all involved. This feeling emanated all night long from the stage to the crowd. When the band is having that much fun it's hard for the crowd not to have the same feeling. During sound check I realized how lucky I was when Steve Lukather came onto the stage and said " I'd like to thank everyone for coming out tonight". As I turned around from my front row seat I saw that I was the ONLY person seated in the entire place. I was pinching myself watching Nathan East (b,v) and his ability to get sounds from his bass that were unheard of. The Show for me had begun as the jokes began flying from every direction, the laughs, the musical interludes, the musical jokes and the songs you will NEVER hear from Toto in concert. From this moment on I knew this would be a GREAT Show!
Luke started out telling the crowd "They told me there was a town outside of Los Angeles. I'm glad I stepped out." This night was a night of dedications as "I Won't Hold You Back" was dedicated to Luke's mom. He said "She is looking down on me now" as he looked and pointed above. Luke added a blistering solo to the song that sent the crowd to their feet in unison. "Home of the Brave" was dedicated to our Military. Luke said "Jimmy Webb opened our eyes to the importance of our soldiers". "Wings of Time" was dedicated to brothers Jeff and Mike Porcaro. Luke mentioned the importance of donating to charities regarding ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and the education regarding this terrible disease. "Pamela" was dedicated to a young audience member who just learned the song recently. On "99" Luke's vocals were a step above passionate. His acoustic guitar play went above the call of duty. David Paich (v,p) and Steve Porcaro's (k) work on the piano and keyboards was another highlight in a night filled with memorable moments. "99" brilliantly morphed it's way into the hard driving rocker "White Sister". Paich and Porcaro were stationed directly across from each other as the interaction between the two stood out on this number above all others. I thought to myself now THIS is TOTO! To see Steve and David together again brought back great memories of Toto "back in the day". I had a great view of Porcaro as his hands flew across his keyboards with amazing speed and precision. It looked to me as if he was having even more fun than the rest of the gang.
As usual Simon Phillips was the rock steady time keeper behind his massive kit. To see David Paich pounding his fist on the top of his piano in time, dancing out front, bellowing a huge laugh during "Falling in Between" and encouraging the crowd was just another sign as to how much fun was being had. As the Show progressed what stood out even more was Joseph Williams. He was definitely on top of his game. In sound check he paced the stage checking every nuance of this intriguing venue. He checked it out intently from top to bottom with great seriousness. You could easily see how dedicated he was to being the lead singer of Toto.
Not to be forgotten were the "background singers". That term seems to lack the importance of their gig. Amy Keys and Mabvuto Carpenter added a ton to the wall of vocals that was Toto. Keys jumped out front and wailed on the huge Toto FM radio smash "Hold the Line". It was a great night of musical and comedic entertainment for me. I am very glad I made the 400 mile round trip drive to see this Show. As this gig was in between Los Angeles and San Francisco there were many, many grateful fans that made the trip from both directions. Young and old alike were mesmerized by the Toto machine that just keeps getting better and better.
It had been awhile since I had the chance to talk to Luke so I had only a few minutes to ask him several questions. I asked Luke how it is to be playing in the United States again? Luke told me "It has been the most fun we've had in a very long time but still bittersweet as Mike is not with us, nor is Jeff. We keep their spirit and music alive with every note of every show and not a day goes I don't carry their love and vibe in me. We ALL feel that way. We always ask out loud 'what would Mike and Jeff think or do?' We obviously keep the music and vibe alive. That is very important to us! The crowds have been amazing and the gigs are packed too which is VERY encouraging for us. Our new management team with our new agents have also made a HUGE difference! Having a team excited to work with us, new ideas, new gigs coming our way, hungry to make it happen for us. We are re-building and re-branding Toto! It seems to be working and no one is more happy than US!
Having said that under the circumstances we are carrying on. Toto in 2013 is probably the best it has been since I can remember. There are many reasons for this. Everyone is very healthy and brings 1000 % every night and as it was only going to be ONE Summer Tour in 2010. We had so much fun and the reaction was SO positive by the fans, the reviews, the attendance at the gigs! It was the same with 2011 and 2012. It now has us all . For now I can say we have the DVD we are almost done mixing and editing and will be out in Spring 2014. There will be a Worldwide Tour in 2014 including MUCH more USA. We have really felt amazing response and we have better ticket sales in the USA in decades. Best live reviews of our career bar none! That sure is nice for a change! (as Luke laughs). The fans reactions have been across the board amazing. So the people have spoken and we are listening. It would be crazy not to carry on. The Music Biz is so fucked up and to have this opportunity to 'start over' and to be able to tour and do so well has been a shot in the arm for us all. I can say myself after 36 plus years I am more appreciative of my career than ever. We all are. We all realize what an amazing gift Toto is to us and we also have a sense of humor about the crazy career we have had. It is truly extraordinary."
I also asked Luke if he ever did imagine to be playing with his High School mates 35 years later? Luke said "Well I may have imagined being close friends for this long but as Toto? No. We had NO idea in 1977 when this all started it would ever last this long! We initially hoped for 10 years at best like our heroes the Beatles. There was no such thing as "Classic Rock" back then. We now wear that as a badge of honor. I have embraced us being Classic Rock. It means we have survived. The music has stood the test of time. The truly amazing part is how the music has survived multi-generations. We see it in the audience. There were 3 year old kids in the audience mouthing the lyrics tonight. I saw them and up through people our age and above. We see this in Europe as well. As every song and album is a soundtrack to my life and all of our lives. It seems people grew up with us as well and now many younger people are catching on to us. There is a new interest in us and our legacy. We plan on parlaying on that in the coming years. Why not? We are not trying to be anything but what we are. Playing to our crowd and most thankful for it!"
One more for Luke was the number one thing I noticed was EVERYONE is having a great time. From sound check all the way until the end of the Show everyone seems really happy. Luke said "We ARE! I am happy it shows. It is real. Most of us have grown up together. There is something in that we can't fake. A history.... a LONG one....and we even have our own language and humor that runs deep. The band is sounding good and Joe is KILLING it and everything is organic and real and the love we have for each other comes across. We have an amazing crew that kills for us every night as well. I now see us carrying on for many years to come. I would NOT have thought this was possible in 2008 when THAT version ended. It had ceased to have any vibe that was real. People NOT bringing their best...me included. I was a wreck as I was so miserable. I thought Toto was done, played out and over.
NOW? It is like I am in a new band, fresh and filled with people I truly love and trust! Hearing Steve Porcaro's magic that had been missing for so many years. Paich back in top form. Everyone playing so tight and funky. Simon and Nathan laying down wicked ass grooves and playing at the top of their game. The amazing Amy Keys and Mabvuto Carpenter filling out the vocals LIVE and for real. But of course the MVP is Joseph. Having a lead singer sing so strong and his amazing turn around and dedication. He lost 91 pounds and got in the woodshed and is singing better than when he was in the band the first time! This has made a huge difference and the fans are saying it as well. The fact that we are all relaxed and confident as well. Maybe even a new record in the making. I NEVER would have thought THAT was going to be in our future a few years back. So thanks ALL for the second chance. It means the World to us. Peace and love to all."
Photos by Bob Dinsmore
© Prouddad Photography 2013