Toto’s live performance stunned fans with their breadth of talent

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Imagine a young lady at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in 1964, and picture her attitude. Got it? This was me at Festival Hall — and no it wasn’t the Beatles, it was Toto. For years, Toto have been the only band I’ve been truly fangirling over, not just because of their seminal 1982 single ‘Africa’, but sheerly out of how good they are live or in the studio, in addition to their reputation as the best in the business.

Of course, seeing a band like Toto in the flesh, it was scary to this reviewer. Due to ‘Africa’s’ immense popularity on the internet, the younger crowd present would get rowdy over the fact it’s not played straight away.

Luckily, the crowd was as cool as a walking bass line and Toto handled it from there. 

For their setlist, Toto dug incredibly deep for songs that aren’t regularly performed. Their 40 Trips Around the Sun tour ensured Toto presented an eclectic set of grand classics (‘Hold the Line’, ‘Rosanna’, ‘Stop Loving You’), new songs (‘Alone’, ‘Spanish Sea’) and deep cuts (‘English Eyes’, ‘Lion’ & the Dune desert theme).

Yes, Toto has even composed a film. Is there nothing they can’t do?

Surprisingly, the set changed to a more intimate setting roughly in the middle of the show. Toto proceeded to surprise unsuspecting fans with snippets of songs that forced them to realise “…they wrote this? Holy crackers and cheese, Gromit!”. This includes synth god Steve Porcaro co-writing the Michael Jackson hit ‘Human Nature’.

Of course, when it came to, as Guitarist Steve Lukather calls it, “…that song” (Africa), everybody cranked it to 110% party mode. It’s a shame though. I’ve always wanted to hit that high A above middle C when the chorus is sung. But considering I’m an untrained lunatic, I’ll leave it up to lead vocalist Joseph Williams and his roar that’s better than the seraphim themselves.

While introducing the band, it was made apparent Toto know how to assemble a good crew. For instance, percussionist Lenny Castro has contributed to almost every Toto record. Pitch perfect bassist Shem Von Schroeck has jammed with Don Felder and Kenny Loggins. Saxophonist, flautist, and harpist Warren Ham has played with Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer and Kansas. And finally their drummer, Shannon Forrest, who has played with Michael McDonald, Donald Fagen, Don Henley, and Boz Scaggs.

The main band comprises Steven Lukather (Guitar, Vocals), Steve Porcaro (Keyboards, Synthesizers), Joseph Williams (Lead Vocals) and David Paich (Keyboards, Vocals). Paich, unfortunately, was taking a medical break, so in his place was the energetic and highly competent Xavier Taplin. Taplin, who has played with the likes of Prince, completely stole the show with his solo in ‘Jack to the Bone’ and his intro to ‘Girl Goodbye’.

Let’s face it: this show should have been called ‘The Avengers 5: Toto Rises Down Under’.

The show was heartwarming for this reviewer and hopefully to a lot of people who’ve been waiting for Toto to come Down Under. To those who came just to “bless the rains down in Africa”, they may not realise maybe one day they were in the presence of greatness.

Highlight: Every single moment of the show, especially seeing Taplin completely rule Paich’s parts.

Lowlight: Not seeing David Paich in the flesh.

By Rhys McKenzie