reCAP :: TOTO :: 2019.10.15 :: The Capitol Theatre

Oct 23  / Wednesday

Words by Jenny Rose Ferguson

I’ve always thought The Capitol Theatre was like a time capsule to the glory days of rock and roll, but I now think they have an actual time machine hidden backstage.

TOTO’s 40 Trips Around the Sun stop at The Cap was a whirlwind trip down memory lane, covering an impressive repertoire that spans some of rock’s richest decades and proves the band’s immense impact on musical history. With a sound so deeply reminiscent of the late 70s and 80s, TOTO brought every audience member on a journey through the past.

As Steve Lukather said many times throughout the show, this tour is about celebrating every era of TOTO. The setlist did just that, covering almost every TOTO studio album, and even showcasing some members’ credits in collaboration with other musical legends, such as “Human Nature,” recorded by Michael Jackson and written by TOTO’s Steve Porcaro. Perhaps the strongest part of the concert, other than crowd-favorite hits like “Rosanna” and “Hold the Line,” was when band members sat together on stage and ran through songs in a story-time style. Passing the microphone, core members Lukather, Porcaro, and Joseph Williams took us to a specific era in TOTO’s long history and gave context to the creation of each song before playing an abridged version of the tune and moving along to another era. Not only was it an impressive display of their many accomplishments and vast range, but it felt personal and gave the audience a truly intimate experience.

The band has undergone many changes over their years together; most notable at Tuesday’s crowd was the absence of keyboardist, David Paich, one of TOTO’s founding members and lead songwriters. Earlier in the tour, Paich had to step away due to health complications but was then replaced by the “twenty-seven-year-old prodigy,” Dominique “Xavier” Taplin, who blended right into TOTO’s classic sound and delivered a stunning solo on the keys mid-set. Luckily, core members Lukather, Porcaro, and Williams were all present, along with touring members Warren Ham on saxophone, harmonica and flute; Shannon Forrest on drums; and Shem von Schroeck on bass. Additionally, we were treated to the percussive genius of Lenny Castro, who as well as touring, has also appeared on several of TOTO’s studio recordings in the late 70s and 80s.

TOTO’s longtime success in the music industry can be attributed to a lot of things: raw talent and skill, prolific songwriting, and the ability to reincarnate themselves again and again. However, seeing them live helps tell the full story of why they have been able to capture the hearts of a multi-generational and worldwide fan base. It’s the rarely perfect combination of quality and consistency. It’s not often that a band’s sound alone can be so constant across decades, and between their studio and live performance, that it becomes iconic in its own right. There is something incredibly satisfying about attending an anniversary tour, and despite not having all the original members present, still having the same experience you would expect twenty or thirty years ago. It’s this promise of quality that demands respect and loyalty from fans and the industry alike, and is hard to find in other bands and artists that are touring forty years after their debut album.

With the tour wrapping up, and Lukather’s announcement of a hiatus following its completion in Philadelphia this weekend, I feel immensely lucky to have witnessed this iteration of TOTO at the Cap. In turbulent times, it’s sometimes hard to find beacons of light. However, watching the face of just one fan experiencing “Africa” performed live by TOTO themselves is enough to give anyone hope for a better tomorrow. It’s truly amazing what live music can do.