Toto’s 35th Anniversary Tour: Live in Poland is the story of family — and, like most of them, that includes arrivals and departures, good times and and bad, anecdotes you’ve heard a million times mixed with those only shared with the deepest confidants.
Over three and a half decades, Toto has seen its share of departures, most notably a pair of Porcaro brothers in Jeff and Mike. Even this brand-new tour document, recorded in Lodz’s Atlas Arena last summer and due on CD, DVD and Blu-ray April 29, 2014 via Eagle Rock, features two now-missing members: Tour bassist Nathan East and long-time drummer Simon Phillips, both of whom are focusing on solo projects.
And yet, Toto continues into another generation. That resiliency is underscored on Live in Poland not just in the way the band reanimates its most familiar tunes but also in the way they focus on lesser-known songs that complete a larger narrative. It’s also in the unself-conscious smile of Steve Lukather as he executes even the more straight-forward riff, in the loose dance that Steve Porcaro does from behind the keyboards, in the up-pointed finger of David Paich as he yelps “the holy boys leap Hell’s Kitchen!” (more on that later), in the fizzy energy of frontman Joseph Williams, and in the way that Toto left in some of the mistakes — unlike more recent concert projects.
This is a band at ease with itself, enjoying the music, playing for the love of one another and the legacy they’ve created together.
They start not with “Africa,” not with “Hold the Line,” not even with “Pamela,” but with music from so far back that it feels confidential, and deeply personal. And then they go deeper, then deeper still. There’s “On the Run” and “Goin’ Home,” both from 1998’s rarities project Toto XX, and the opening cuts from 1979’s deeply underrated prog exploration Hydra — including the title cut (home to that Hell’s Kitchen business) and “St. George and the Dragon.”
Only then does Lukather step forward for a new reading of “I’ll Be Over You,” part of a string of heartfelt ballads found on Live in Poland that also includes “I Won’t Hold You Back” and “99,” the latter of which now features a striking, acoustic-focused arrangement. Live in Poland makes room, too, for the kind of endlessly addictive, radio-ready pop craftsmanship that made “Stop Loving You” an international hit. “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna” and “Pamela,” too.
And yet Toto remains steadfast throughout 35th Anniversary Tour: Live in Poland in taking listeners off the beaten path of their discography, telling us new things about their music — and about themselves. There’s Steve Porcaro’s sweetly conveyed “It’s a Feeling” from IV; the title track from 2006’s endlessly intriguing, typically overlooked Falling in Between; “White Sister,” another favorite from Hydra; the layered “Better World” from 1999’s Mindfields; the muscular “How Many Times” from 1992’s Kingdom of Desire, and the anthemic closer, “Home of the Brave” from 1988’s Seventh One.
That serves to paint an ever-more complete portrait, one that takes in both their unforgettable radio successes, but also the times when they let loose, when they let their imaginations soar, when they leaned on one another. There may not be a better argument for reevaluation ever made when it comes to the oft-dismissed Toto.
Along the way, Live in Poland is punctuated with moments both wide-screen (their boisterous East-led chant to conclude “Africa,” the tough instrumental collaboration that closes “Stop Loving You,” Amy Keys’ sultry duet with Williams on “Hold the Line”) and refreshingly small scale: There’s the moment when the crowd recognizes that its Paich’s birthday; Lukather’s acrobatics on a one-of-a-kind Sammy Davis Jr. guitar; the emotional dedication of “Wings of Time” from Kingdom of Desire to Jeff and Mike; and Paich’s jazz-inflected “Rosanna” coda. That’s part of family too, the little things, the personal things.
It all adds up to something more emotionally resonant that another concert retelling of the hits, huge though they may be. 35th Anniversary Tour: Live in Poland fills the blanks in between, giving new shading and depth to everything that came before.
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