Steve Lukather had performed here four years ago on Ringo's 72nd Birthday with the Ringo All Starr band which was captured for the "Ringo at the Ryman" DVD. He also played here just recently with Ringo in back to back stellar performances with the All Starrs. The Ryman is also located appropriately a half mile from the Musicians Hall of Fame where Toto was inducted into seven years ago. This building was almost demolished in the 70's and the Ryman crowd was glad it wasn't as Toto almost blew the roof off of this place with a thunderous performance.
Toto 2016 consists of Luke (g,v), David Paich (k,v), Steve Porcaro (k,v), Lee Sklar (b), Nashville cat Shannon Forrest (d), Lenny Castro (Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks) with singers Mabvuto Carpenter (Chaka Kahn, Stevie Wonder) and Jenny Douglas-Foote (Joe Cocker, Mick Jagger). This American leg of this Tour was different from recent ones. Toto was out on their own with no co-headline or support act. This was entirely their gig. This was another sold out gig as this tour has been filling houses everywhere.
The night started off to a roaring start with "Child's Anthem". I immediately wondered if the roof on this 124 year old structure would survive. Most of the crowd rose to their feet as soon as a hint of any member of Toto arose. Luke motioned for the rest of the crowd to get up. This was a perfect energetic roaring number to start with. Joseph Williams then appeared for the second number "I'll Supply the Love". Williams donned a David Paich like top hat sort of stealing his thunder hat wise. There were even a few top hats in the crowd. Williams got off to a fast start too. Vocally on top of his game and as energetic as ever. He started to groove with keyboard brothers Paich and Porcaro from the start. He seemed to touch every square inch of the stage at one point or another during the night. "Stranger in Town" from Isolation was up next. Paich was front stage "reading/singing" the lyrics from a newspaper to the crowd in a haunting way. He then looked like the Paich that we all know and love as he added his top hat for this tune.
Luke rang out loudly with "HELLO NASHVILLE! We are here by ourselves to play a FULL SHOW! It's been a long time since we've played here." He later joked "we haven't played here since 1927!" Luke introduced Lenny Castro "you know this guy from the Rolling Stones to Joe Bonamassa." He then introduced Lenny's percussion pal "I think you know this cat from Nashville." Luke was ready to drop some dirt on the hometown dude but then he realized his family was in the crowd so he bit his tongue. Luke did remind Shannon that he owed him one. Sklar was introduced simply enough and accurately as the Worlds greatest bass player.
Toto has distinguished itself from most of the bands of its era. Unlike other bands Toto is playing new recently released material. Toto's XIV was welcomed with great reviews and top charting positions across the World. They would end up playing five songs from this release tonight. Most of Toto's compadres stick with a greatest hits package most of which are two decades old. "Holy War" started off with the first song from XIV. There were five vocals in unison reminding me of the vocal talent not just the instrumental talent Toto has.
It was now time to slow it down with the Luke led "I Won't Hold You Back". This was another roller coaster ride of rocking highs and heartwarming lows. Toto exploded out of the box at a blistering pace and now they geared down. This was the "oh ya, Luke can sing too" song. Williams even assisted Steve Porcaro with keyboards. As Luke sizzled on this number we were welcomed to singers Mabvuto and Jenny. They are just as much a part of this band as anyone else. They both shined throughout the night.
"Georgy Porgy" was dedicated to musical brother Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) by Luke. The song definitely had that E,W & F groove to it. Luke said "people thought this was a cover song. But it wasn't. It's on our first album written by David Paich." Mabvuto and Jenny were front and center with Luke laying down some tasty licks. Sklar is so effortless in his playing that you sometimes forget how great he is. It was time to soak in the musicianship on stage. Lennys' touch added a ton of flavor. "Burn" was XIV song number two. It was introduced by Williams as a dark love song. There was a new member of the drumming brigade as Luke added air drums to the Rockin' intro. The new songs didn't miss a beat at all. There wasn't a letdown at all from anything off of Toto XIV.
Music City can be a tough crowd but they were very receptive tonight. On "Afraid of Love" Sklar stepped out and jammed with Steve Porcaro. "Bend" was Porcaro's spotlight. It was dedicated to his brother and Toto bass player Michael. Porcaro was helped by Lenny, Mabvuto and Jenny on this. Luke added some haunting guitar. Porcaro shared the bands sentiments regarding it's appreciation of Nashville. Paich thanked the fans, musicians, writers and producers. You can feel that special something in the air at the Ryman. You can feel it throughout the city but it's just that much stronger at the Ryman. The Ryman is located in the heart of Nashville. It's only an alley way away from many of the top Honky Tonks in town. You could have literally gotten off the Toto Tour bus and walked directly into one.
Luke got the crowd revved up with hand claps for the intro to "Pamela". Williams then encouraged even more from the crowd. Williams was even more focused than ever and delivered even more on this song that he truly owned. The sound was crystal clear out front. Luke, Paich and Williams had a Music Fest together to the delight of the crowd. Castro and Forrest were a dynamic duo clicking even better with that many more Toto gigs under their belts. These guys were making Nashville proud. Castro was the Ace in the hole thundering away in tandem with Forrest when needed and adding the light touch when necessary. Paich hit what should have been called "Musicians City" for the night with a piano solo. Luke and Sklar took it in relaxing together for the moment on Shannon's drum riser. They took in every Paich groove. Paich said "I see some musicians in the audience". Paich the did a "wardrobe change." He took off his top hat for a baseball hat to the dismay of the crowd. He then put back on his top hat to loud cheers. Then the game was over as he put on a black cowboy hat to a rousing ovation.
"Great Expectations" was roller coaster ride in and of itself with booming highs and inspiring lows. This song is becoming an epic live number that solidified it as a keeper from Toto XIV in the live set. It was dedicated to today's youth. It was especially appropriate at the gig as there were plenty of Music City youth in attendance. Tonight's youth seemed to know the words to the Toto songs as well as there elders and appreciated the musicianship just as well. Once again the Castro/Forrest thunder rocked the stage. If anyone was going to be to blame for the roof coming off the Ryman the fingers should have been pointed at them. Luke added another air instrument to the combo this time it was "air bass" between his guitar grooves. Joseph Williams joined the air combo with his keyboard antics. The ever stoic Sklar added his touch of showmanship by bouncing back and forth to both sides of the stage. This song went through all gears one through five and back down again.
Williams set up the next number saying "I need something kind of funky. I have the perfect person for it. Mr. Steve Lukather. Luke obliged with a funky guitar intro to "Without Your Love". The laughs and smiles seemed even bigger and better from the band than usual. I would attribute that to "Music City Syndrome." This was a crowd that "gets it". Even the younger kids got it. It was now Lukes turn. Robin Trowers' "Bridge of Sighs" was next. It was just Luke, Sklar and Forrest for this song with Paich joining in later in the song. Luke destroyed it on this guitar rocker. I looked over to see the Rascal Flatts cats Travis Toy and Jay DeMarcus witness Luke destroy their historic building. Both had looks of amazement on their faces as did the rest of the crowd. The shouts of Luuuuuke rang throughout the hall. Those shouts were louder on this song for Luke than any other. Luke acknowledged his cohorts with a "give it up for Sklar and Shannon!"
Paich acknowledged the song writers and told them "we are privileged to be here." He told the crowd how his musical start was here. He said " from the start, Nashville wrapped it's arms around me." It seemed to me that both band and crowd had an abundance of appreciation for each other and the city of Nashville. The next number was very special. Luke introduced special guest and original bass player of Toto, David Hungate. Hungate came back to Toto in 2014 and played on Toto XIV. There were hugs and smiles aplenty. "Hold the Line" is the Toto signature song and to have Hungate out there playing it made it that much more special. The longtime Nashville area resident Hungate even grooved with singer Douglas-Foote for part of the song. With the intensity level high all night it even went higher with the addition of Hungate on stage. It was a touching moment at the perfect venue. It was even more special for most of the crowd who hadn't seen Hungate with Toto or if they had it had been over 30 YEARS! Even more touching was seeing Sklar watching the entire song stage left in the shadows cheering on his bass brother.
It was a thankful night all around as Luke thanked Steve Porcaro for bringing him into his music world starting in Porcaro's garage. "The Road Goes On" was warmly dedicated to Jeff and Michael Porcaro. It was an acoustic AND electric guitar on this number with Luke switching mid song. The Ryman was magically lit by everyone's cell phone. "Orphan" was the fifth and final song from Toto XIV. Mabvuoto stepped out front for this thumping number with Jenny and Joseph following. Lenny looked like the hardest working man in the band. He was a man in motion from the first note until the last. Everyone was firing on ALL cylinders at this point with "Rosanna" up next EVERYONE was on their feet singing and grooving without an empty seat in the house even after two hours. Shannon was a perfect fit from day one and even looked more comfortable and smooth now. By now Paich didn't even call Shannon by name he just said "Nashville, HIT IT!"
Nashville wasn't about to let this party end. "On the Run/Goodbye Elenore" was up next. This was another ripping, high energy number with Luke on fire again. Luke then asked the crowd "do you want to hear ONE more song? Did we forget something? What do you want to hear?" EVERYONE in the crowd shouted in unison "AFRICA!" The two Steves grooved stage left as Porcaro pointed to the jam packed Ryman balcony for Luke to see. This set ending song gave the crowd one last chance to see Lenny and Shannon make some magic. It was a happy, grooving, appreciative band playing for a just the same crowd. Toto had a winning night from start to finish in Music City.
The after show hang at the Ryman was a musicians reunion. The Nashville music community showed it's support. The hang included Keith Carlock (Steely Dan, Toto), Travis Toy (Rascal Flatts), John Oates (Hall and Oates), Jay DeMarcus (Rascal Flatts), Tim Akers (Vince Gill/Rascal Flatts) and Barry Green (Michael McDonald/Larry Carlton/Vince Gill). Former NFL player and Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Bill Cowher grooved for the whole two hour show!
I did get a chance to talk to some of the Toto cats after the gig backstage. Luke told me "Man, I had tech issues tonight. But if I overlooked that throwing me off my game. The band played really well and we had the crowd! People told us they had never seen the Ryman that crazy in terms of audience response. So what do I know? It was a packed house and a good vibe. Thanks for coming out."
David Hungate told me " It was just beautiful to see Luke, Paich, Steve, Joe, Shannon, Lenny, Jenny and the whole gang. There was a lot of love there. I've been happily retired since last September and have literally not touched my bass since then. I wasn't gung-ho about sitting in. I just wanted a chance to see and hang with everyone. But it occurred to me there might not be many more opportunities, so I'm glad they asked me and I'm glad I did. The band sounds great of course. Leland has been one of my heroes since I heard the early James Taylor albums. He brings a great thing to the band. So I'm glad he's doing the gig".
I asked Lee Sklar about playing in Nashville at the Ryman. Lee told me "It doesn't get any better than that. You know those guys are Country guys at heart, but they were great tonight. It was fantastic. This is one of the most iconic rooms in the Country. I love these guys here so much. I don't have roots here in Nashville but I have musical roots. I came here for so many years to do records. I've had the best time tonight. This is fantastic." I then asked him about Toto going out on their own. Everyone here tonight is here to see Toto. He said "The great thing about it is instead of being on a co-bill Tour we get to play our two hour plus show. To me it's much more satisfying. I love it."
I posed the same questions to Steve Porcaro and he said "Oh man, what a dream come true! We were humbled and amazed to be in a place with so much history and to be around so many young musicians. It really felt great to get the kind of response that we got it was fantastic. About Toto going out by themselves he said "It feels really good. It feels really good to play our full two hour set that we get to do in Europe and Japan for our fans here." I told him about the support Toto got from the musical community and he said "it was very cool."
About Nashville/Ryman David Paich said "It's such a high for us, because Nashville is where I came back to after I did my first recording with Glen Campbell "Houston (I'm Comin' to See Ya)". I got the ASCAP Award. Nashville is the recording center of the World as far as I'm concerned. Nashville is how L.A. used to be. It's full of songwriters, great singers and musicians. It's our brotherhood. Here at the Ryman you can feel the history in the room. Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Mel Tillis and Jerry Reed. Everybody has been here. Ever since the beginning. My first record that I got when I was a kid was Floyd Cramer. Listen to him play! Boots Randolf! It's an honor and a privilege to be here. You know what I mean? Listen to him play. And about playing by themselves and selling out shows he said "Ya, we are man. We're just doing what we've been doing for years. But we're doing it for our fans now over here in America."