words by Katie Wighton // photos by Lucas Packett @lucaspackettphotography
“This music makes the older folks in the crowd feel young again. They're re-living their days as long-haired teens, one hand in the air, the other holding a tinnie of VB having the best night of their lives.”
The house lights dim and the stage lights go up. My stomach does a little flip. IT'S TOTO TIME!! Now, there aren't many people who don't love their hits. Rosanna. Hold the Line. And of course, Africa. But I am telling you. There is a lot more to this band than those three bangers.
Steve Porcaro for one. Not only does he play a mean keyboard but man that fella has a history on him...! Side note: I had no idea that he wrote Michael Jackson's Human Nature. He has been in the band since the beginning and yet his energy shows no sign of waning. He plays keys with one hand and turns to face the audience and have a little boogie with us. The man is cooler than cool – he's ice cold.
The drummers in their little glass cages are like spectacles at the zoo. Lenny Castro on the left of the stage plays a mean tambo, let me tell you. And a CHIME TREE. A freaking chime tree! Okay, Katie. Settle down. It's only the first song...
The lead singer Joseph Williams, sports the perfect 80s rocker outfit. A black vest, a skull cap and little round wire sunglasses. Spot on, mate. Spot. On. And he has a seriously incredible voice. Boy oh boy. But they can all sing. It's basically a man choir. And I lurve me some manarmonies (that's man harmonies). They cascade casually throughout virtually every song, leaving us in a permanent state of agog.
The bass player is new to this particular lineup of the band but it doesn't show. He fits in seamlessly, often carrying the melody lines and singing super high in his register so easily I can't even tell he's singing sometimes.
Now we come to Steve Lukather – the lead guitarist and one of the only other original members of the band. He's a total sweetie and you can tell it's his kind, gentle and humble approach that has filtered down throughout the rest of the band. He absolutely shreds on lead guitar but then, they all do on their chosen instruments. Each player gets a little time in the spotlight to show off and then step back into the recesses of the stage.
Second song in and they bring out the big guns – Hold the Line. And the crowd goes totally insane. It's a smart move too because it gets us all so jazzed that we spend the rest of the set dancing around like animals. This music makes the older folks in the crowd feel young again. They're re-living their days as long-haired teens, one hand in the air, the other holding a tinnie of VB having the best night of their lives. But it also makes we younger kids feel like we've been around for longer than we have. Ah the power of timeless music!
There are no techs running on and offstage handing the musicians different guitars between songs and it makes for a refreshing change. We all settle in and the band does too. It's such a good vibe in here right now.
About halfway through the set, after playing a beautiful ballad, Steve Lukather calls out to us “You wanna hear a party song?!” And of course this question is met with a resounding yes – well, an indecipherable cacophony of screams . And then they play what I think is their best song. Rosanna. It's a big call guys. And perhaps it's more to do with my own personal love affair with this song but I actually don't care. It's amazing and my heart swells with joy – especially during the SICK keyboard solo in the middle of the song. The young keyboard player on the left of the stage (26 yrs old and plays in Prince's band omg...) absolutely nails the piano solo at the end of the song and I feel like I could die a happy lady in this moment.
This band is the real deal. Incredible musicians with oceans of talent but somehow, equal amounts of humility. Joe Williams has a list of claims to fame. One of which being that his father wrote the Jaws theme song. Lenny Castro on percussion has played in Ringo Starr's band. He's played with Cher. The list goes on and it's truly astounding. We learn all of this when they sit down and play acoustic style snippets of some of the other work these sensational musicians have been a part of. I personally think it's just so they can have a rest after what is a really energetic first half. And fair enough too!
The band play a request they received on Facebook which I think is super cute. Isolation is obviously a favourite of more than one human here tonight and it's just another example of the genuine love that this band has for its fans.
The night ends with a 15 minute version of Africa which sees Williams leading a call and response with the audience. He chants “Ohhh!” We chant “Ohhh!” He says “Ah!” We say “Ah!” And eventually they take us into a final chorus which we scream as if our life depends on it.
There is, of course, an encore which entails a LOT of guitar shredding and general instrumental prowess. I am completely exhausted at this point – in the best possible way. My friend and I find our way to our cars and on the way we remark on just how incredible the show was. So much amazing music. So many incredibly talented, hard-working musicians on stage. This is a show none of us will ever forget.