TOTO launch new line-up with stellar online gig

Image Courtesy of Toto

By Yoan Dzhugdanov

Last month, guitarist Steve Lukather and singer Joseph Williams announced the return of Toto with a new line-up, ending the band’s hiatus which began last year at the end of their 40th anniversary.

The new line-up is the band’s fifteenth incarnation and sees Lukather and Williams joined by bassist John Pierce (Huey Lewis and The News), drummer Robert ‘Sput’ Searight, and keyboardist/background vocalist Steve Maggiora with keyboardist Dominique “Xavier” Taplin (Prince) and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Warren Ham (Ringo Starr) as returning members.

"At this moment, Joe and I are the only long-tenured members of the band that want to be on the road continuing to bring music to our multi-generational fan base," explains Lukather. "I’ve spent almost four and a half decades of my life as the only original member who never missed a show or an album nurturing this legacy while enabling the music to continually exist in the live concert setting.

“Luke and I have been through a lot with one another," adds Williams. He’s like a brother to me. Our creative partnership has always enriched our lives. As we look towards what’s to come in unison, there is nothing but anticipation to bring everything in our minds to life. I can’t think of anyone else on Earth I’d rather launch the next chapter with this lifelong, loyal and gifted friend and band mate. We’re the last men standing!”

On Saturday, November 21 the new line-up made their global debut with a pre-recorded, one-night only concert event that streamed prime time in three different time zones and geographical regions to accommodate all fans: Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe and North/South America.

The show served as a teaser for the band’s planned 2021 tour, The Dogz of Oz, which will see the band bring this new line-up to fans across the world.

Recorded at Los Angeles’ SIR Studios, the concert saw the band play only eleven tracks in a set that lasted just over an hour (which left me personally quite disappointed considering what I had paid to watch the livestream), however thanks to some of the deep-cuts that they pulled out, I was frankly overjoyed.

The band kicked things off with the upbeat Till the End, transitioning into classics like Hold the Line and Pamela whilst also digging out Kingdom of Desire, not played in its entirety since 1993. Halfway through the set, singer Joseph Williams took a moment to pay tribute to original Toto vocalist Bobby Kimball with a track from the band’s 1978 debut album, the ever so funky, You Are the Flower. Kimball departed the band in 2008 and has since been battling dementia. The band then played other staple hits like Rosanna and Stop Loving You, finishing off with a terrific cover of The Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends, which saw original member David Paich feature as guest. Surprisingly, the band chose to omit their biggest hit and most well known song from the set – what is commonly referred to as ‘that song’- what else could it be other than Africa. The livestream ended with a playful and teasing message: Come see us play live if you want to hear ‘that song’.

If this is a taste of what’s to come then fans can rest assured that Toto are well and truly back with a bang, perhaps more revitalised than ever before. The online gig made sure to capture the chemistry in the band with members like Robert Searight and Steve Maggiora injecting much needed fresh blood.

As far as online concerts go, this seems to be the norm for now and there is some enjoyment to be had from the experience, namely the opportunity to enjoy the show from the comforts of your own home as well as listening to a sharp and pristine sound mix (which isn’t always the case when going to actual gigs) but this is as polished as things can get in post.

The experience was quite simply a visual and sonic delight and I guess that this is the least that bands can do to tide us fans and avid gig-goers over until the music industry itself regains its momentum and goes back to normality sometime next year – we can only hope. In the meantime, it’s up to all of us music fans to support artists by purchasing physical copies/downloads of their music and official merchandise as well as tuning into such livestreams where possible.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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