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Toto and Michael McDonald at Fantasy Springs: Review

Toto
Toto
Alex Kluft

Toto and Michael McDonald Concert

Rating:
Star4
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Steve Lukather, David Paich, Joseph Williams, and the third brother of the famous Porcaro family Steve Porcaro( who recently rejoined the band after a long absence from touring) find themselves in 2014 still
together with a complete overhaul of the band. Following their latest studio album "Falling In Between"....a string of exhausting worldwide tours, a live album and DVD release and the news that bassist Mike Porcaro would have to leave the band due to his career ending disease, left original founding member Steve Lukather with a decision that Toto was finished.

Lukather anounced that Toto had ended their long successful run in a very honest and personal message that was published on his personal website as well as to the fans who flock to Facebook each day to follow his amazing career. A road weary Lukather had had enough of Toto and decided he would focus on his solo career. What followed was 3 absolutely fantastic solo albums and numerous tours with his solo band . A couple years ago in the midst of Lukather's solo run, Toto made a decision to re-form for a select few shows in support of brother Mike Porcaro.

Lukather gathered up original band members David Paich and Steve Porcaro, along with long time drummer Simon Phillips, bassist Nathan East and former Toto lead vocalist Joseph Williams. The reception recieved from fans worldwide was overwhelmingly positive. They seem to have found a new energy and passion to be playing together again. I was fortunate to travel from Los Angeles to my hometown of Salt Lake City where I drove to Wendover Nevada and saw the band in a very comfortable Casino venue.

What the audience saw there was sheer power and energy coming from lead vocalist Joseph Williams. His vocals were spot on and soaring with power and energy. Keyboard and original forming band member David Paich was more energetic and passionate about playing live than I have ever seen him. He was up on his feet walking around the stage clapping and interacting with the fans.Steve Porcaro who is the other keyboard player was also very obviously happy to be back on stage with his Toto brothers.

This reformation of Toto has been a new beginning and a continuation of the magic that began nearly four decades ago . As Toto has been moving forward with powerfully positive momentum, the drummer Simon Phillips stepped down from the drum riser to pursue other projects. And now the original founding member and bass player David Hungate has returned to the band after a 32 year absence. Following the departure of Simon Phillips, Toto was left without a drummer. In an amazing and wise choice the drummer for Steely Dan Keith Carlock was chosen is the drummer to replace Phillips.

With all these changes taking place along with the new found commitment from all of the current band members, a decision has been made to record a new album which they have been actively working on in between touring schedules. As Steely Dan drummer Keith Carlock finishes his commitments with Steely Dan he has been showing up to the studio in Los Angeles to assist in the recording of this yet finished album.

As Carlock finishes his commitments Steely Dan, Toto has temporarily added drummer Shannon Forest to cover for Carlock until he joins the band exclusively.

Because both acts are so closely related to one another and have a long history of performing together on stage and on each other's records this was a grand double header with two of the most successful hitmakers the music world has ever produced. Michael McDonald appeared on stage with Toto during their set to perform the song which he recorded with them "I'll be over you". The Greek Theater is a spectacular outdoor amphitheater where the seating is very comfortable and the sound system is supreme. I have heard from many of my friends that the Greek is their favorite venue to watch a concert.

Steve Lukather has his own signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitar line and he showed us a brand new black guitar that had various white airbrushed images of Sammy Davis Jr all over it hence Lukather's 2nd solo release from 1994 "Candyman." and he is also a major Sammy Davis Jr fan.

Lukather just finished a US tour as guitarist for Ringo Starr's all star band just a couple weeks ago. He must be one of the busiest performerAnd recording artists in the music world today. Toto was absolutely spectacular this night at the Greek. They were full of energy as usual and firing on all cylinders. Lead vocalist Joseph Williams sounded more powerful,soulful and in total control of his voice. He also expends s lot of energy parading around the stage projecting his powerfully confident vocals towards everyone on all sides of the stage. Comfortably Williams was dancing and making entertaining moves of showmanship while powerfully singing his vocal parts.

One highlight was the song "White Sister" from their 2nd album from 1979 Hydra where he followed David Paich's brief song blending transition into the familiar piano intro of the song......where Williams sings the timid sounding song prelude..... "do you love meeeeee.............do you love meeeeeeeee" gradually buliding louder and faster and in this song explodes into full fury.
Lukather obviously loves playing this song by his antimated and overexxaggerated pings and pops with screaming "whaaa whaa whaaa" sounding lead guitar solo so fast but so perfectly melodic and complex that anyone paying attention has their mouth and eyes wide open with amazement at what they are watching Lukather play on the guitar.

In both shows that I saw it was such an honour and privilege to watch the original bass player David Hungate perform with the band. A reality that not anyone could have predicted. I was very happy and very fortunate to have bumped into Mr Hungate after the second show that I saw in Indio where the crowd was filing out and he came walking through the arena in his casual street clothes . We noticed him and had to walk over and introduce ourselves. David was the most kind gentle soul you could ever imagine. I shared my lifelong fandship with him and expressed to him how
great it was to meet him. He seemed to be very humble about being asked to rejoin the band after all these decades. He also expressed how wonderful and amazing this all is getting back with Toto. David is such a Nashville guy. Such a perfectly proper gentleman dressed in a dress shirt and tie on stage looking like he's on his way to church. In a way he is at church. Toto has been my church for almost four decades.

After Toto finished their opening set to a standing ovation that was downright full of energy and adrenalin, Michael McDonald took the stage and began what was a very soulful, memory laden set that featured several Doobie Brothers hits "What A Fool Believes" "Minute By Minute" and "Takin It To The Streets" I noticed that McDonald was struggling a bit with his voice. I spoke briefly with a tour staff member following the show that mentioned McDonald had been closely working with his doctors in regards to his throat and vocal chords.

Some of the greatest players that McDonald could ever hope to assemble on stage. The gorgeous Drea Rhenee' was an absolute joy to watch and listen to. During the encore, some of the members of Toto (Lukather, Paich, Williams and backup vocalists Jenny Douglas and Mavbuto Carpenter joined McDonald onstage for what was a soulful and energetic party of an
encore.

The highlight of the 3 song encore was when they performed Stevie Wonder's hit song "Superstitious" where all the vocalists took turns belting out every ounce of vocal power that they had remaining in their very talented voices. The members of both bands gathered at the edge of the stage for a massive bow to the crowd and a wave goodbye to a very happy Los Angeles crowd that enjoyed a beautiful evening of some of the most talented musicians to ever play together on the same stage. An absolutely memorable evening of emotionally satisfying music.

Review:

Darren Bennion