I spent two days moving my daughter into her apartment this week, so I was not only whipped, I was whupped. I drove back from College Station and had time for a quick, pre-concert nap and shower before going to Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie for the TOTO and YES concert. I needed to relax with some good music and I got exactly that with some Top 5 hits, a few deep cuts and a couple of new songs. It’s hard to pick 14 songs from a career that has spanned 17 albums and over 40 million sold, not to mention seven Grammys and an induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2009, but they did. Believe me, they didn’t disappoint, either. We definitely got TOTO-ed.
With only a simple intro, the members of the band filed out onstage, waved to the crowd and immediately started playing “Running Out of Time” from their new Toto XIV album. It was an easy listening number and few people had heard it before, so it didn’t stir the crowd until Steve Lukather busted out the first of his many guitar solos halfway through the song.
With the audience now paying attention, they only stopped for a second before launching into “I’ll Supply the Love.” Singer Joseph Williams tried his best to get the crowd moving and grooving, but everyone, including the three female teachers from Grand Prairie ISD were swaying back and forth in their seats instead of jumping up and down. Once again, Lukather let loose with a guitar solo that raised the bar a little bit.
I was sitting among diehard YES fans, so they didn’t know many TOTO songs except for the three biggest hits, but they gave Lukather their full attention when when he spoke about losing their bandmate and friend, Jeff Porcaro, and YES losing their co-founder and longtime bassist, Chris Squire, in a nice tribute to the recently departed pair of musicians. He also introduced the great Lenny Castro, who is touring with them again, on percussion, drummer Shannon Forrest and bassist David Hungate.
“Hydra” was next and the crowd was a little more involved with some dancing in the aisles. Steve Porcaro, brother of Jeff let out a keyboard solo that got a few more people shaking in their seats. Even the die-hard YES fans erupted when “Hold the Line” was the next song played. Everyone joined in singing as it’s still in the rotation of every classic rock station. Jenny Douglas-Foote, a beautiful backup singer came down to sing the duet part and knocked it out of the park.
The crowd finally reached the level of excitement a band of TOTO’S stature deserved and it had a major effect on theM. They showed much more passion, the notes were a little crisper and the music sounded even better from this point forward. Steve Lukather took that cue and sang “Stranger In Town” with a whole new level of attitude. I loved the change as it was now a rock concert.
They followed that with “Holy War”, their peace and love anthem that had a great message. “Pamela,” from The Seventh One album, was next and one blonde lady danced like it was prom night, so I assumed her name was Pamela and she thought the song was written specifically for her. David Paich played a remarkable piano solo that ignited the crowd, then Lukather added a guitar solo with an unexpected jazzy ending that really helped the song. Paich slowed things down with a beautiful piano solo to open “Great Expectations,” then dedicated and sang the song in the memories of Porcaro and Squire.
Lukather added a solo that was heavily influenced by Steve Howe of YES and Joseph Williams found another level of passion when he took over the singing. Lenny Castro really shined in “Without Your Love” as it was heavy on percussion. This made everyone remember the signature 1980’s TOTO sound. Up next was a highlight for most of the audience. Lukather, one of the most underrated guitarists in the music industry, launched into a solo of “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix that was absolutely enthralling. I wish he would have dedicated it to Stevie Ray Vaughan as this was the 25th anniversary of his passing, but all of us SRV lovers knew it in our hearts.
They let the backup singers shine as Jenny and Mbuvito Carpenter hit a home run with “Never Alone in the World.” Jenny sang and danced and twirled in her little red dress, to every man’s delight. The concert was nearing a crescendo, but was taken even higher with excellent keyboard and guitar work from Lukather, Hungate, Paich and Porcaro. The final two songs sent the crowd into a feeding frenzy and the cameras came out in full force once the first few notes of “Rosanna” started. Even my new YES-loving teacher friends jumped up and shook their moneymakers in a way which would make their students groan with embarrassment. The guy to my right then said, “You know the urban myth is NOT true and this song is not really about Rosanna Arquette, don’t you?” I told him I did know, but that in my opinion, she is still a handsome woman. He said, “Oh, hell yeah, she has a body that can make a preacher kick out a stained glass window,” which I had to admit was true.
TOTO continued to jam for several minutes with more keyboard and guitar solos that we ate up. They weren’t about to let the passion die now as Joseph Williams did the requisite “Hey Hey Hey,” routine which led to the unmistakable beginning of “Africa”, arguably their biggest hit. The energy in the audience was amazing until an amp blew out. The smoke rose and the sound went quiet for a few seconds, but a technician was there to fix it just as Joseph started the chorus and everyone continued the singalong.
They finished with another extended jam session, and band and audience thanked each other profusely for a great set of music. David Paich is a great writer and all of them are great musicians, but Steve Lukather stands a notch above the rest. He is THE most sought-after guitarist in an industry with many great shredders.
I saw him play with Ringo’s All-Starr Band last year and he absolutely blew everyone away, especially while playing Carlos Santana guitar solos when Gregg Rolie sang the SANTANA songs. People were buzzing at intermission about the music, even the die-hard YES fans and my new teacher friends. and we still had half a concert to go…
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS
LIVE PHOTOS: GUZPIX