“Forty years is a loooooong time to have a band”, Toto vocalist Joe Williams remarks dryly, but with a smile on his face and undoubtedly a twinkle in his sunglasses-covered eyes, midway through their near-as-dammit sold out debut performance in Belfast. Luckily for the breathlessly thrilled audience, the band have lost none of their enthusiasm or talent for writing (and performing) award winning music; each song in their two and a quarter hour set is lovingly recreated, each high note perfectly reached, each harmony as gorgeously lush as the day it was recorded.
Beginning the night with ‘Alone’ following a dramatic curtain drop, they certainly cover the astonishing breadth of their career, with classics such as ‘Hold the Line’ and ‘Rosanna’ – songs that are so ingrained in people’s minds that they’ve become part of pop culture – nestled easily amongst more recent tracks such as ‘I Will Remember’ and the newly written ‘Spanish Eyes’. The crowd, for their part, go wild for every song, hooting and cheering enthusiastically and relishing the singalongs that Williams encourages.
Toto have never just been a ‘one singer’ band, of course: guitar maestro Steve Lukather has also taken the lead on several numbers, as he does tonight, such as the aforementioned ‘Rosanna’ and a rather proggy, multi-layered version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, which he touchingly dedicates to George Harrison. He also proves to be rather a dab hand at a guitar solo, dazzling the crowd with masterful performances time and time again; there’s a closet metalhead hiding in there, for sure.
They turn the dial down a notch midway through, during which most of the band take a seat and Lukather brings out his acoustic guitar while various band members reminisce about how certain songs came to be written, after which snippets of said songs are played. It’s a gamble – and several people take the opportunity to nip out to either empty or fill their bladders – but the proper fans lap it up and the applause and appreciation remains at a high level.
Afterwards they ramp it back up by playing, as Lukather explains, “some deep cuts for our old friends”. Thus the audience is treated to the beautiful ‘Angela’, with its glorious pace changes, ‘Lion’, which has been unplayed since 1985, and the rather sci-fi sounding ‘Desert Theme’ from the movie Dune, to which of course Toto wrote most of the soundtrack.
After another instantly recognisable classic (‘Make Believe’), Williams hollers “do you wanna hear THAT song?!”, before the drum intro to ‘Africa’ rings out and the crowd loses their collective minds, joining in with the loudest (and longest) singalong of the night. Following a drum dual of sorts (because there are two drumkits onstage, of course) and an extended “woah oh” outro, they file offstage, returning to a deafening roar for one more song, the criminally underrated ‘The Road Goes On’.
Beginning life four decades ago as a group of session musicians who decided to form a band and see where it took them, Toto are now part of the bedrock of rock and pop music. Tonight’s performance was sharp, slick and damn near flawless, as the beaming faces of the crowd streaming out of the Waterfront can attest to. Forty years is indeed a long time for any band, but what a band they are; and indeed, what a legacy they will leave behind.
Hold the Line
Lovers in the Night
I Will Remember
Jake to the Bone
Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover)
Stop Loving You
Dune (Desert Theme)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (George Harrison cover)
The Road Goes On
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Photography By Darren McVeigh
Big thanks go out to the team at Metal Planet Belfast for sharing their work with us here over at Rock ”N’ Load on a busy night in Belfast. Check out the guys work below.