After 35 years and over 35 million record sales, you’d think Toto would have a deep well of material to draw from to celebrate their ongoing musical legacy. You’d be correct. From singles like “Africa,” “Rosanna,” and “Hold the Line” to wildly successful albums like Toto IV and The Seventh One, Toto has consistently lived up to the Latin meaning of their band name: “all encompassing.”
According to founding member, singer, keyboardist, and songwriter David Paich, the group was surprised to realize 35 years had gone by since a group of Van Nuys, California high school friends came together as Toto. “We felt a bit like we did back then,” Paich told me. “We put together our anniversary concerts just like we did our old high school shows. We sent around song lists to all the band members for everyone to pick through what songs we wanted to do. Only this time, we had some 90 songs to work through instead of 20.” In addition, they wanted to specifically have all the eras of their career represented. This resulted, not surprisingly, in their 2013 shows lasting over two hours each night.
Naturally, when Toto’s anniversary tour launched in Europe, the band knew they wanted to record a good concert despite the fact they’ve released two previous live collections this decade. Amsterdam was one choice that didn’t pan out as the concert was booked too early in the tour. Had transportation workers in France not been out on strike, a show might have been recorded there. It was guitarist and singer Steve Lukather who suggested Poland, as he had enjoyed great audience response at a solo show he performed. In the end, filmed on June 25, 2013 at the Atlas Arena in Lodz, the 35th Anniversary Tour – Live in Poland was well worth all the preparation in whatever format you prefer, as it’s available now as a 2CD set, DVD, Blu-ray, or a deluxe edition featuring all formats with a 60-page book.
That June night, Lukather, Paich, drummer Simon Phillips, Steve Porcaro on keyboards, and singer Joseph Williams gave a performance that has not only pleased the live audience, Toto fans who’ve heard the new release of that concert, but also newer listeners who weren’t even born 35 years ago.
For one matter, the 21 songs and medleys demonstrate the “all encompassing” scope of Toto from the heavy, crunching guitar of “Falling in Between,” power ballads like “I Won’t Hold You Back,” the jazzy syncopation of “Pamela,” to the progressive rock of “Better World.” “Music is what we’re all about,” Paich said, “as we don’t put on a dancing stage show like Mick Jagger. So while we want the songs to be recognizable to our fans, we feel free to make new arrangements, as with `99′ and its new drum part. As we’re all accomplished players, we give each other opportunities for solos.” As a result, even fans who know the hits by heart can enjoy fresh approaches and unexpected takes on familiar melodies. Some songs have not appeared on previous live releases and one, “The Muse,” is a brand new offering with Lukather on acoustic guitar and Paich on piano.
While fans quibble a bit about Lukather’s occasional straining vocals, Williams has earned almost universal praise for being the best lead man Toto has ever had, and such praise is earned on the concert disc. In fact, Paich claims Williams’ return to Toto was their cure for their ongoing problems with “LSD” (lead singer disease).
There’s no evidence of any diseases of any kind on 35th Anniversary Tour. Few bands can match the power and scope of Toto’s catalog, including the hits mentioned above as well as more obscure cuts like “Goin’ Home,” “Hydra,” “St. George and the Dragon,” “Stop Loving You,” and “Home of the Brave.” In short, the concert is a bounty of world class musicianship delivering songs this band clearly enjoys sharing anew.
These days, no concert DVD would be complete without a behind-the-scenes documentary, and Paich was very pleased with the film made for this concert. “It really shows where all the band members are at now,” he says. True enough. Better, it showcases a band in an energetic, creative period as they are once again working in the studio for a new album scheduled for release in 2015.
No Toto fan needs to be sold on purchasing 35th Anniversary Tour – Live in Poland. It’s those who may know only a few of the hits or were never that interested or are too young to know much about Toto who might especially enjoy the discovery of seeing and hearing one of the most accomplished bands in rock history. Odds are, after one evening with this concert, many nubbies will be looking for tickets to experience Toto live. Clearly, Toto is not a band of dinosaurs, it’s a group forever young.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00J0LH16Q]