Toto packed Portland’s best theater on Wednesday, the intimate 800-plus seat Revolution Hall, delighting a solid number of hardcore enthusiasts with a 22 song career-spanning set for more than two hours that featured a brand new song, a bunch of old ones, a lost one and of course the abundant of hits that endeared them to so many fans for life.
The band just embarked on the North American leg of their 40 Trips Around the Sun tour, a celebration of the band’s history, and laid out what can only serve as a blueprint for other artists to follow. No opening act, on time, stellar playing and a live experience that pretty much bested anything in their studio catalogue.
Toto opened with their fantastic new song “Alone” featured on the recently released greatest hits album 40 Trips Around The Sun which if you haven’t heard give it a listen. In time, this song should rise to the level of a classic Toto song on par with “Africa” and “Hold the Line” which followed the new recording and immediately registered with the audience as the opening bars rang out.
They continued with “Lover in the Night” the first of four off their smash record Toto IV then played the lost “Spanish Sea” originally recorded in 1985 and also featured on 40 Trips… along with several other “lost” songs, though certainly “Spanish Sea” rises to a lost single. Singer Joe Williams nailed the high notes along with backing from bassist Shem Schroeck helping turning this song into an evening highlight.
The setlist left off newer work, nothing off the last four studio albums as Tambu from 1995 offered the most recent material. Nonetheless, Toto did a great job mixing up the set to not only showcase their catalogue but keep the energy levels afloat like placing their smash “Rosanna” after the slower love song of “Lea” and getting back to as guitarist Steve Lukather said “classic” Toto with “Make Believe” after the well-played but heavy and near downcast Beatles cover “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Lukather admitted the difficulty of coming up with a full setlist to encompass the band’s vast collection so midway through the band brought out some chairs to the front of the stage for a more coffee house setting and played longer snippets of songs while providing some interesting history. “Georgy Porgy” was the first song a young 19 year-old Lukather ever sang, which at the time, he said, was totally different than anything Toto had released. Keyboardist and original member Steve Porcaro came up with the lyrics to “Human Nature,” made famous by the Michael Jackson, on the heels of finishing Toto IV after his daughter asked why a boy at school was taunting her. And did you know “Stop Loving You” went #1 in Europe? They played that too.
Some fans might feel gypped over original member and keyboardist David Paich deciding to sit out the North American leg of the 40 Turns Around the Sun tour in order to rest after the extensive excursion overseas that stretched from February through April (hopefully this indeed means a well-deserved break and nothing else going on as they’ve enjoyed a three-month break). However, Dominique “Xavier” Talpin filled in rather exemplary hitting all the keyboard parts with precision and even got some solo work on “Rosanna” and the instrumental “Jake to the Bone.” Talpin looks just like Paich so casual fans might not even tell the difference, anyway. OK, actually, he looks nothing like Paich, quite obviously, but Lukather could not resist the joke when introducing him.
Lukather, meanwhile, fully anchors this band, as Toto’s original lead guitarist and who William’s described as the leader of Toto, shows nothing less than wizardry as he moves up and down the fret board. Toto might get most of their airplay on adult contemporary or soft rock stations but this guy easily crosses the guitar hero line with straight-up hard rock chords and blistering, sometimes complex, solos. In fact, he soloed on nearly every song often extending his work and most certainly including spontaneous harmonies while under the lights. Note to Joe Satriani: If you need a new face for the next G3 tour give Lukather a call, he’d fit right in.
But that’s not to say Lukather prevails over all others here. The reigning members of Toto almost read like a Who’s Who in music with all boasting various side projects including solo albums and session work with big name acts like Billy Squire and Michael Jackson, which explains the Michael Jackson cover. And you know who Williams is, right? He comes from some of the best stock imaginable as his father is the famous film composer John Williams.
After the abbreviated set, Toto returned to form with an absolute rocking “Girl Goodbye” another instrumental in “Dune (Desert Theme),” the Beatles cover and closing out the main set with, of course, an extended version of “Africa.” Though the absent Paich provided the original vocals to this band’s anthem Williams has more or less taken over full-time vocal duties and easily brought it home. It really is a great song, isn’t it?
Toto returned to encore with “Hash Pipe” an original song by alternative rock darlings Weezer who did a bang up job covering “Africa’ this year so Toto returned the favor with a bang up job of their own on a Weezer song. So much in fact, Toto will release their single of “Hash Pipe” later this month. Modern rock, alternative rock, whatever it’s called these days – meet Toto.
You probably never heard of them – but you will now.
Toto Setlist at Revolution Hall in Portland:
- Hold the Line
- Lover in the Night
- Spanish Sea
- I Will remember
- English Eyes
- Jake to the Bone
- Georgy Porgy
- Human Nature
- No Love
- Stop Loving You
- Girl Goodbye
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- Make Believe
- Hash Pipe