[LIVE REVIEW] TOTO @ Festival Hall, Melbourne 4/01/2019

Photo Credit: Mikki Gomez

The weather gods had delivered us a blisteringly hot day hovering over 40 degrees but thankfully the cool change moved through as I headed to see rock legends Toto at Festival Hall. Which was a lot more ‘Festy’ than ‘Festival’ after the hot day but as we have no control over the weather, I just had to suck it up and join the sweaty masses that were rapidly filing in to get a good vantage point.  It was a packed house, the fans showing their allegiance to this amazing band that has been pumping out the hits for over 40 years, hence the name of the tour 40 Trips Around The Sun. Which is also the name of the new album, a collective of their greatest hits.  With no supports necessary it was straight into the main event with Toto taking the stage just after eight, the tour logo emblazoned over the huge backdrop at the rear of the stage adding warmth and giving an inviting feel to the show.

Opening with Alone, the show was off and running and Festival Hall was jumping. The vibe was fantastic and lead vocalist Joseph Williams was in amazing form, wowing the punters from the get-go.  Hold The Line was next and the fans lost their minds, singing with passion and loving every minute. Founding member Steve Lukather was a definite favourite of the audience, gaining applause for a mere smile in their direction. But his resume speaks for itself and he is more than worthy to have the enormous following he has amassed. Lovers In The Night, Spanish Sea and I will Remember, the hits were flying out and the groove was palpable, the percussion-driven tunes loved by all in attendance, and keyboards on each side of the stage gave a symmetrical balance which worked perfectly with the percussion and drums mirroring the same.  Steve Porcaro is a maestro of all things keys and blew everyone away from start to finish, dripping in sweat but not relenting for a moment giving his all to each and every song, a professional right until the last note. But he had some stiff competition with 26-year-old X.A.Vier killing it with backing vocals and keys on the opposite side of the stage. Moving through the setlist with the stamina of a band many years their junior we heard English Eyes, Jake To The Bone and Lea before the mega-hit Rosanna. Sharing the vocals Steve and Joseph have this song down to a fine art, and the technical drumming of Shannon Forrest was sublime. Shannon bought his A game along as did percussionist Lenny Castro. What a combination of rock, pop, soul, and funk between these two, it was so easy to get lost in their playing, it took you to another place which certainly was not the melting pot that Festival Hall had become.

It was now time to take it down a notch with stools and acoustic guitars appearing. While everyone caught their breath we were treated to splendid snippets of songs such as Georgy Porgy, Human Nature and Holyanna. It was a lovely addition to the show and the storytelling behind the songs was very interesting indeed. It would be remiss of me not to mention bass player Shem von Schroeck, not only was he a fabulous musician his backing vocals were outstanding, hitting the high notes with ease and providing just what Toto’s songs required. There were many solos and instrumental pieces over the course of the evening, showing us all that sometimes music is all that is needed, and kudos to the sound engineer, it was absolutely perfect and while Festival Hall may be old it certainly has magnificent acoustics.

Girl Goodbye was an awesome addition as was the theme from Dune. Steve then gave us his version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and it was just perfect, finishing with a blistering solo and while we were all sweating up a storm, he looked cool as a cucumber, his shredding skills exemplary. Make Believe was next, and I must mention Warren Ham, his sax, harmonica and flute playing was second to none and he was rather handy on the backing vocals as well, definitely the complete package. Then Steve says “so you want to hear ‘that’ song?” and of course everyone knew that was the cue for Africa and the venue exploded in abandoned joy. We clapped, we sang and we devoured every single second of this most amazing song, taking over the vocals on several occasions and almost raising the roof in the process. The band left the stage but we weren’t done with them just yet, and screams and chants of ‘one more song’ commenced. It didn’t take long for Toto to return to a thunderous applause, and unless you have been hiding under a rock you would know that Weezer have recently covered the classic Africa, so now it was time for revenge, and Toto’s cover of Weezer’s classic Hash Pipe. Wow!! What an addition, it was bloody fantastic, and the punters loved it. Now it really was time for goodbyes with bows and waves to the adoring crowd, and as I left the venue I could only think how just like a fine wine, Toto has only got better with time!

Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale