The thought of family was immediately apparent as I spotted the patriarch of the Porcaro Family Joseph at the Box Office. I then saw various other members of the Porcaro Family, Lenny Castro and his Family, Steve Lukather's son Trevor, Joseph Williams family members, Toto XIV producer CJ Vanston and former Toto bass player and long time friend Lee Sklar. Emotions were next as Lenny very recently lost his father and bass playing brethren Mike Porcaro (Toto) and Chris Squire (Yes) recently passed.
As the lights lowered the obligatory shouts of Luuuuuke erupted from the full house at the Greek for Steve Lukather. But this show was about a band. Everyone would get their moment to shine and shine EVERYONE did. It kicked off with an exuberant number off of Toto XIV "Running Out of Time". It was a perfect choice for an opening number as it showed there was no fear in playing an unfamiliar number to a Los Angeles crowd. The energy was apparent as Luke right off the bat was interacting with David Hungate (bass). Lenny Castro (percussion) and Steve Porcaro (keyboards). Luke bounced from stage left to stage right and from the front of the stage to the back of the stage with an ever present smile. It was is if he knew everyone in the crowd and he truly may have. He even joked later about making sure he hooked everyone up with tickets, passes and parking.
On "You Supply the Love" Luke stared down David Paich (piano, keys) without even flinching until they both broke up in laughter. "Hydra" was a hauntingly beautiful number that was everyone's chance to shine. Everyone in this band is an "A" list player that didn't disappoint. This was the first look at the keyboard showdown between Paich and Porcaro. They each gave the other enough space to do their thing. They didn't need any encouragement but Luke got the crowd going even more. The drumming thunder of Shannon Forrest erupted on this number. With Castro and Hungate this was a monster of a rhythm section. Rock solid from start to finish. Castro is a man in motion with the unassuming Hungate keeping an even groove from start to finish. I knew after this number it was going to be a great night. There were already numerous hair raising moments.
Luke addressed the crowd regarding Yes. He said "we have a lot of love and respect for each other. We lost our brother and they lost their brother. We would like to dedicate this night to Mike Porcaro and Chris Squire. With "Hold the Line" up next the entire crowd rose to it's feet. Jenny Douglas came out front to sing some of the leads on this still to this day FM Radio staple. Jenny and Joseph went back and forth pushing each other once again. The vocals on this number went to frightening heights as the combination of the two singing together was push to maximum levels by the hometown Los Angeles crowd. It is undoubtedly the best I've ever heard Williams sing.
Toto XIV was again upon us as "Holy War" as Paich/Porcaro locked into each other once again. The two masters of their trade weren't in competition they were both having a blast. Porcaro slid, skidded and grooved all night with endless energy. The points and nods of affection and admiration for each other continued through the night. The Toto vocals reached their peak so far on this song. The combination of Paich, Lukather, Williams and Carpenter/Douglas in combination with instrumental perfection was mind blowing. This was one of the best musical performances I have ever seen.
Williams soared again on a song he wrote and sang from "The Seventh One" "Pamela". He seemingly touched every square inch of the stage and appeared to make eye contact with everyone within sight as he is not only a singer but a performer to it's fullest. It was also obvious this was a hometown show as all cat's were recognizing and acknowledging family and friends. Luke grooved with Paich in a "Baked Potato moment". It sounded like I was at the World Famous music club so much that I could almost smell the Potatoes cooking and could vision owner Justin Randi behind the bar. Then I realized I was at the Greek with 6,000 other Toto fans.
The lights next zoned in on both Paich and Porcaro as it was time for the keyboard spotlight. With Toto XIV charting in record positions across the World another cut "Great Expectations" was up next. Each new song held their own even up against all the timeless Toto classic hits. Paich introduced the song as being inspired by Yes. He also said it was dedicated to brothers Porcaro and Squire. The thunder again came down as the Forrest/Hungate combination was not to be forgotten. With Castro stationed next to Forrest that side of the stage was where the majority of the heavy hitting was. It was also more evident that no one person was more important than anyone else.
This band was great because of the sum of ALL of its parts. The nod to Yes was also clearly evident as they were to follow Toto up next on the same stage. You could feel the love and respect for Yes and their fallen brothers on this number. "Without Your Love" reminded the crowd that not only is Luke a great guitar player but his vocals were not to be forgotten either. Joseph Williams was also not to be forgotten as he didn't sing lead on this song but added his vocals with just as much energy as ever making him a great team player.
The roof of the Greek stage was now about to be blown off. Luke went Jimi Hendrix on the crowd with "Little Wing". He gave every ounce of everything he had on this song. The crowd once again rose in unison as chants of Luuuuuke rang louder than ever echoing off the hills in the background. Paich stood on the side of the stage and applauded Luke throughout the song. The fourth and last song played off of Toto XIV was "Orphan". It started out with Mabvuto singing leads then Williams joined in with Douglas doing her share out front towards the end. It now came to my attention that not too many bands can have multiple lead singers without missing a beat. This was one of those bands.
The final two numbers were songs that even the casual music lover knows. "Africa" and "Rosanna" were the smash hits that Luke has played on this same stage and many other stages all over the World with Ringo Starr. It also reminded me that I would be seeing Luke with Ringo doing the same songs on Oct. 3 in Paso Robles. Ca. The last two numbers had everyone on their feet singing every word.
With the addition of FOUR brand new songs from Toto XIV to the set list, the ever growing number of shows Hungate and Forrest have played together now, super percussionist Lenny Castro back in the family, MVP Joseph Williams singing and performing better than ever Toto is back bigger and better than EVER! This was an unforgettable night. You know when the band members of this magnitude are shaking their heads with utmost approval and admiration then something very special is going on. This was truly a memorable evening from start to the after show hang.
After the show I was able to talk to a few people regarding their take on Toto.
Michael McDonald: "It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Steve Lukather is one of the best guitar player's in the World! Toto sounded better than EVER tonight. Steve was amazing! Everybody was hitting home runs up there."
Lenny Castro: It's great coming back home! It's beautiful, man. It's heart warming. It's a beautiful scene. After losing my dad right now it's a very special moment for me. To come home to L.A. and to impress the people and to have a great time with my buddies. There's nothing better. It doesn't get any better." I told Lenny you guys kicked some serious ass tonight! Lenny: "We've been doing it the WHOLE tour! We spent nine weeks in Europe. We are so ready! We're kicking everybody's ass and we're not taking any names!" I told Lenny I was here last year when you weren't with them and it was great but this show tonight was phenomenal! Lenny: "From your mouth to God's ears. Thank you man!"
CJ Vanston: "It was such a thrill to see them after having done their record! To hear how fresh they were and how much the music transferred from the studio and what we wrote. We always have a cinematic and theatrical view of the record. When we were making it I tried to picture it live. Even with the lighting cues what it would come off like. To watch it tonight was one of the great thrills of making records for all time. It was the whole payoff." I said to CJ I thought it was great that in a 90 minute set they played four songs off of Toto XIV. CJ: They OPENED with a new song "Running Out of Time" which sounded AMAZING! I couldn't be more proud of these guys."
Joseph Williams: "It was a wonderful show tonight at home. It's great to have family and friends here. It gives you that little piece of adrenaline to just get you going!"
David Paich: "Oh man! We were in the zone. It was so fun, so comfortable. It's always fun playing your home town. We had so much love and so much support from our people. I'm very emotional about it. Playing your home town it always becomes infectious to see all the love and everything with the audience communing with us. I'm so proud of our band for hanging in there and working so hard. Lukather's GREAT! I think he's one of the greatest artists in the World."
Sticking with the family theme I talked to Lenny's son. Tyler Castro: "It's a little bit emotional and amazing. They sound amazing. It's my family. It's amazing to see them back together again, to see how amazing and dynamic they are together again." I told Tyler how his dad told me this was helping him heal after the recent passing of his father, Tyler's grandfather. Tyler: "Absolutely! It's our family. They killed it!"
Steve Lukather: "Thanks for coming man! It was a great night in the hometown. Packed house and it was one to remember!"