An Evening with Toto

Tuesday 26th May 2015

Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom

A day before this show I decided to buy a ticket to see Toto because I’d never seen them live before and I felt now would be the best time to. There was a large queue of people wanting to get the best view in the general admission standing area which went all around the outside of the venue and you could see a sea of people wearing tour t-shirts from various classic rock American acts such as Lynard Skynard and I could tell this was definitely a muso audience.

The merchandise desk was rammed with people getting Toto t-shirts and hoodies as well as tour date posters and programmes. I purchased a poster and programme and went upstairs to my seat in the circle ready for the show. At half eight the lights went down and as the spotlights danced on a white sheet eerie instrumental music piped through the sound system. Then the sheet fell to reveal the nine-piece Toto opening the 20-song set with ‘Running Out Of Time’ from their new studio album ‘Toto XIV’ as lead vocalist Joe Williams sang with pure energy and guitarist Steve Lukather played with such precision.

The musicianship of this band (especially in a live setting) is first-class and they were fortunate enough to welcome back  several members  including their original bass player David Hungate (credits include Chet Atkins, Brenda Lee and Boz Scaggs), vocalists Mabvuto Carpenter (credits include Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder and Rod Stewart), Jenny Douglas Foote (credits include the late Joe Cocker, Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz and others) and legendary percussionist Lenny Castro (credits Fleetwood Mac , The Rolling Stones and my friend Joe Bonamassa). They also welcomed world class drummer Shannon Forrest (credits Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Robben Ford) who really shone on ‘Holy War’. Keyboardist Steve Porcaro lead moving tributes to his brothers Jeff and Mike and thanked the audience for all of the messages of support regarding Mike’s passing this year as he battled with ALS.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd erupted when the band launched into ‘Hold the Line’ which featured a stunning vocal duet by Joe Williams and Jenny Douglas Foote and Lenny Castro is a man who can really say so much musically without needing to do much as ‘Takin’ It Back’ proved. Mabvuto Carpenter provided the vocals for ‘Orphan’ as the audience sang ‘Never alone in the world’ right back at him.

‘Bottom of Your Soul’ showed us a tender side of Toto and Lukather’s vocals were quite beautiful and ‘Orphan’ and ‘Holy War’ had strong messages about the darker aspects of life which David Paich delivered on piano beautifully and his tone reminded me a lot of Billy Joel on ‘New York State of Mind’.

‘Rosanna’ again got the crowd singing along as the tone-deaf man stinking of peanut butter next to me sang like a bag of cats were being hit against a brick wall. I’m not saying people should not sing along at gigs but I really wish this guy didn’t.

The first encore was ‘On the Run’ and Shannon Forrest and David Hungate laid down the beat as the band played like it was the first song of the night and ‘White Sister’ was just flawless as the shadow of David Paich’s top hat bobbed up and down.

Steve Lukather joked with the audience during the second encore ‘Did we forget one? Which one did we forget?’ Immediately everyone chanted ‘Africa!’ and David Paich replied ‘We couldn’t hear that! I think it’s the thick accents!’ As they closed the show with one of their biggest hits I still couldn’t figure out what the song was about but the performance was so fantastic it didn’t really matter.

The set was two hours and fifteen minutes of rock at its very best and it is amazing how many songs Toto have in their arsenal. Not only that but the entire Toto crew are just incredible with the fantastic light show and production from Marc Brickman (lighting and production design), Jim Fitzpatrick (lighting director), Heino Noelke (lighting technician), and Markus Fichtler (lighting crew chief). I know they are all professionals but it is really a stunning spectacle.

The thing about Toto’s new material is it sounds as fresh as their older material and they aren’t trying to be cool or be something they’re not. It is a very listenable and catchy body of work that they should be very proud of.  Although Toto never went away they are now back with a bang and I believe songs on ‘Toto XIV’ will be played on the radio for years to come just like ‘Rosanna’, ‘Hold the Line’ and ‘Africa’. I hope they come back to the UK and please don’t leave it as long this time.

Glenn Sargeant

Thank you to Steve Lukather for all of his support and goodwill.