This was Hungate's first full show in over 30 years. Hungate reunited with original members Lukather, Paich and Steve Porcaro. David has been a top notch Nashville studio cat for many, many years and recently has been country superstar Vince Gill's touring bass player. Forrest is a perfect choice as his musical influences are Jeff Porcaro and Lenny Castro, his favorite album that he didn't play on is Toto IV and he played with Toto at the Nashville Musicians Hall of Fame. Shannon most recently has toured with Boz Scaggs and the Dukes of September (Scaggs, McDonald and Donald Fagen).
With the odds stacked against them it was a triumphant return for Toto and especially David Hungate. With late arriving equipment, just a few tour rehearsals, a 'brand new' rhythm section, no check time at all with the Michael McDonald Band and a minimal sound check it was a recipe for disaster. Toto pulled it off with flying colors.
The night opened with "On the Run" and it was immediately apparent that these guys were in sync. With "Rosanna" up next I had Ringo Starr All-Starr flashbacks as it was two weeks to the day that Luke played this same song at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles with Ringo. Paich and Porcaro exchanged keyboard and piano parts back and forth from opposite sides of the stage. Luke split them in half from dead center stage with sizzling guitar sounds. Hungate stood out quickly on this number with some thundering, thumb slapping, five string bass sounds that echoed off the sold out venues walls. "Hydra" was a hauntingly raucous number that was directed at the true hard core Toto fans. With Hungate, this title track from the second Toto album brought another flashback of Toto from the beginning. This was a treat for the fan who used to listen to albums. This wasn't for the "Rosanna/Africa" fan. This was also for the Steve Lukather 'guitar hero' fan as Luke shredded just enough without going overboard. This number was also a band song as it was credited to all six Toto members at the time.
Luke affectionately introduced Hungate saying "this is a big night for this guy that made it happen on the first four Toto albums." It then became time to slow it down with "I'll Be Over You". Michael McDonald came out to join Toto to a rousing ovation on the number that he originally sang on with Luke and Williams. McDonald's and William's voices resonated together in a way once again giving people another flashback of the good ol' days. Williams continued to step up his game as a singer with tremendous stage presence. He was like a ping pong ball shooting back and forth from one side of the stage to another. He played 'air bass' with Hungate, played a little 'air guitar' and feigned playing piano on the back of Paich. He also sang as if he hasn't missed a beat. He was even more full of energy than the last time I saw Toto in Visalia, Ca. "Pamela" from the Williams era Toto album "Seventh One" was up next. Williams joked as the amazing soulful vocalist McDonald left the stage "I have to follow THAT!" It was great to hear the song sang by Williams originally sounding better than ever. "99" featured Luke on acoustic guitar and vocals. This song gave a chance for EVERYONE to shine. There was more interplay between Paich and Porcaro as the two animated players were both having a BLAST! Hungate continued to stand out as he was in the spotlight again on a solo as he gave the approving crowd a smiling nod of acknowledgement. "99" slowly morphed it's way into the rocked up "White Sister". Shannon Forrest played at a supreme level on this number as it was very hard to believe this was his FIRST show. He fit in liked he'd been there for years. He killed it from beginning to end. Toto may have become a mega band because of their ballads but the hard rock fans were fans because of "White Sister". Toto showed it's true worth by bringing it on every single number fast, slow, soft and hard.
Luke introduced "Gorgy Porgy" with "it wouldn't be right if we didn't get to do something funky". The funk meter was on full tilt on this number as there were funky groovin' guitar, bass and vocals. A highlight of this one was the vocal trio of Williams, Carpenter and Douglas. This song enlightened the crowd as to the vocal abilities of everyone on board. On "Africa" Luke summoned the crowd to stand up. Not only did they stand as one the crowd attempted to show off their vocal abilities on another Toto #1 hit. Thoughts of the Greek Ringo gig ran through my head once again as this crowd mimicked the Greek crowds enthusiasm. "Home of the Brave" was dedicated by Paich to World peace. There was a touching moment during this song as Luke and Hungate exchanged smiles and nods as they appeared to have a 30 year flashback of their own. "Hold the Line" brought the crowd to it's feet with the instantly recognizable Luke guitar intro. Vocalist Douglas-Foote was a star in her own right on this tune as she stepped out in front and traded leads with Luke. This isn't Toto's biggest hit but it epitomizes what Toto really is. It still gets played daily on FM Radio stations across the country.
The show ended with Joseph Williams, Steve Lukather and David Paich joining the Michael McDonald Band for a extremely enjoyable party atmosphere ending. McDonald bass player and vocalist Tommy Sims led the way singing the Eric Clapton mega hit that he penned "Change the World". Next up was an ode to Stevie Wonder which included "Superstition". The final number had everyone on it's feet singing the Doobie Brothers "Taking it to the Streets". With zero rehearsal time at all for this multi band ending you could hardly notice that this was a first. Overall the night was an astounding success. "Newcomers" Forrest and Hungate, the Nashville Dynamic Duo, were both at the top of their game. As great as this show was they will get better as I will witness for myself at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in a few days.
I had a chance to talk to Steve Lukather after the show and he told me "The first night was a bit hectic. A bunch of the crew guys, the lighting guy had never done us and had no rehearsal. Because the trucks were FOUR hours late we had no time to program so it was pretty much a GO FOR IT thing there. We had a few musical train wrecks we tried to steer out of and laughed off (laughing). It was opening night jitters if you will. Over all I see this is going to be a really great tour and huge fun. We're so very happy to have David Hungate back! He is burnin' and to have the original guy play his own parts with his magic is awesome and we are already having a ton of laughs. Shannon Forrest really stepped up. It is REALLY hard to just come in and just play with this band. Only four days to rehearse and get ALL this shit together. At the last minute we had some serious crew changes and that is hard but we just WENT for it. Warts and all the audience seemed to love it and perhaps did not notice the few little WTF moments we had. IT IS live! No faking it. (laughing). Our crew really stepped up and showed what pros they all are and made it happen very quickly. Without them we are nothing. I can't wait until show number two. We will iron out all the little things. It's going to be a great tour!"
Steve Porcaro also had a few words telling me "It's sure not boring around here these days. It was exciting being up there for the first time in a long time with David Hungate. Feels great. Shannon Forrest is along this time on drums and he had an amazing first gig. Looking forward to tomorrow night."