Where: Hammersmith Apollo
When: 26th June 2011
Tonight's gig was very much a "Marmite moment". The MOR/rockers were appearing at a one-off UK gig having re-formed last year to raise funds for their bassist who is suffering from a form of Motor Neuron disease.
On London's hottest day this year, lead singer Joesph Williams appeared in full coat and scarf. I remember seeing him walk on stage when I took the above photo. At the time I clearly felt sweat trickle down my back and I wasn't under stage lights and only dressed in T-shirt and trousers!
I'll give him his dues, he must have great stamina as he never took the coat off, nor did he look like a drowned rat which I know I would have/did.
Nowadays most AOR gigs are generally seated so it was good to see a packed Hammersmith Apollo with seating removed downstairs and an obviously appreciative crowd forced up against the barriers. Many of the people I talked to had come from far flung parts of the UK for tonight's gig and just shows that it's likely a nationwide tour could be viable.
There was a simple stage set; a backdrop featuring their sword logo surrounded by a gold ring. Emblazoned on the ring were the words, "The Blink of an eye 1977 - 2011". In front of that was Simon Phillip's large drum kit and two keyboard risers either side of guitarist Steve Lukather's central position. In fact it felt a little like the Steve Lukather show despite most lead vocals going to Joseph Williams or Keyboard player David Paich.
The band is made up of great musicians however I'm not sure they know what direction they want musically these days.
The set list felt a little like a variety show. Not only did we have Williams and Paich on vocals, we also had a great backing singer Jenny Douglas step up for a dual with Williams on one song.
Till The End
Afraid Of Love
Lovers In The Night
Somewhere Tonight (inc Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry!)
Gift Of Faith
Stop Loving You
Home Of The Brave
Hold The Line
Perhaps the biggest surprise for most was the inclusion of Michael Jackson's Human Nature. However it wasn't just a well worked cover as Toto's Steve Porcara co-wrote the song for Jackon's Thriller album.
There were a couple of sections tonight that really didn't work for me. The first was the "keyboard Extravaganza" half way through. I feel that this lost many of the audience who weren't keen Toto fans. Technically very good but musically was missing cohesion. The second was the very long tracks George Porgy and Home of the Brave and the submersion into prog rock at times.
Of course the hits had the fans and the potential converts cheering wildly. Mind you I still can't stand to hear Africa even though the keyboard riff has haunted me for the rest of the week. It's the lyric "As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti" for some reason this just grates on me each time I hear it and spoils the song for me.
The gig ended as Toto's hits had began with 1977s Hold the Line. Toto were joined on stage by Steve Lukather's son Trevor. He certainly added to the rock element of the track and assisted his dad with supplementary guitar parts.
I was seated by this stage in the circle and I happened to read a text message over the shoulder of the lady in front of me. It went something like "good job I don't have a sharp implement or I'd have to burst my own eardrums if I hear one more piano or guitar solo"
She wasn't the only one not getting what Toto were offering - the Guardian's 1 star review of the gig included the wilting "1970s MOR rock at its most clunky and flatulent."
The feedback from the fans however couldn't have been more positive, comments like "one of the best if not THE BEST performance ive ever seen" litter their pages.
Clearly Toto are an acquired taste. More Marmite anyone?
I don't know if these guys have had work done to keep looking good, however the press weren't allowed access to the pit in front of the stage and we were forced up at the back of the venue and behind the mixing desks. This position limits creative photo taking opportunities so it was a surprise when Toto put up a link to my "great pictures" on their facebook page. I couldn't help reply with a dig about how much better they'd be with pit access!
See more photos from the gig on the photo gallery.
Verdict: An acquired taste, 6/10