Steve Lukather on Toto’s overlooked Yes connections: ‘Shameless nods to our heroes? Sure’

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Steve Lukather knows just what your average classic-rock fan is going to say about Toto’s just-announced 2015 summer North American tour with Yes — at least at first. “Really! That’s interesting,” he says, chuckling. “Then they might go, ‘Wow, that’s really cool! I’d go see that.'”

Toto, which has just released its first Billboard-charting album since 1990, confirmed this shared bill earlier today. The well-received Toto XIV has, in fact, debuted in the Top 10 across nine countries. Together with the buzz surrounding these shows with Yes — they’re touring behind Heaven and Earth, Yes’ first studio effort with frontman Jon Davison — Toto arrives at U.S. stages on a roll.

“This could be the best couple of years that we’ve had for Toto in decades and decades,” Lukather says, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “I’m shocked, but in the most positive way. It’s going to be a different energy level on stage this time.”

In truth, however, what seems like one of the year’s more offbeat pairings actually has a lengthy history.

Founding Yes frontman Jon Anderson provided backing vocals on the single version for Toto’s “Stop Loving You,” a Joseph Williams-sung 1988 song by Steve Lukather and David Paich. That trio of Toto members was joined by the Porcaro brothers (late drummer Jeff, late bassist Mike and stalwart keyboardist Steve) on Jon Anderson’s In the City of Angels, also from 1988. Paich co-wrote two songs, one of which — “Top of the World” — featured Lukather, Steve and Jeff Porcaro, Paich and Williams. Paich and Jeff and Mike Porcaro also play on Anderson’s “If It Wasn’t For Love” and “Is It Me.”

Steve Lukather was John Wetton’s first choice to replace Steve Howe when he decided to stop pulling double duty in Asia and focus on his work with Yes in 2013. Lukather earlier worked with current Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes on “Days Like These,” from Asia’s gold-selling 1990 greatest hits package Then and Now. Later, Toto’s Steve Lukather, and Mike and Steve Porcaro appeared with Yes’ Alan White and Geoff Downes on former Yes member Billy Sherwood’s 2005 Pink Floyd tribute album Back Against the Wall, which included a memorable update of “Hey You.”

There’s a deeper musical connection, too. Toto has long leaned toward a similar brand of prog, going all the way back to 1979’s Hydra. That often-overlooked sensibility, in fact, continues through to Toto XIV. “You can hear some of it in our new music,” Lukather confirms. “‘Great Expectations’ is a huge nod to 1970s prog rock like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd. It’s all in there. Shameless nods to our heroes? Sure. Why not? I’m not ashamed of that. Our favorite music shaped us into who we are.”

True story: When Toto was in the studio, working on “Great Expectations” — a track which serves as the epic closer for Toto XIV — Lukather ended up taking over bass duties. Here’s what he had to say about that session: “I was channeling my inner Chris Squire today.”

In other words: All that’s left is for the two separate fanbases to begin blending at venues nationwide. “We may win over fans; they may win over fans,” Lukather adds. “All I know is, we love the guys. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time.”

Here are the announced dates, cities and venues for a 2015 summer tour to feature Toto and Yes. Each band will play a 90-minute set:
Aug. 7: Mashantucket CT – Grand Theater at Foxwoods
Aug. 8: Newark NJ – New Jersey PAC
Aug 9: Atlantic City NJ – Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa: Event Center
Aug. 11: Brooklyn NY – Barclays Center
Aug. 12: Baltimore MD – Pier Six Pavilion
Aug. 14: Huber Heights OH – Music Center at The Heights
Aug. 15: Sterling Heights MI – Freedom Hill Amphitheatre
Aug. 16: Chicago IL – First Merit Bank Pavilion at Northerly
Aug. 18: Des Moines IA – Iowa State Fair: Grandstand
Aug. 19: Saint Charles MO – Family Arena
Aug. 21: Biloxi MS – Beau Rivage Resort & Casino: Beau Rivage Theater
Aug. 22: Alpharetta GA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre @ Encore Park
Aug. 23: Clearwater FL – Ruth Eckerd Hall
Aug. 25: Houston TX – Cynthia Woods Pavilion
Aug. 26: San Antonio TX – Majestic Theatre
Aug. 27: Grand Prairie TX – Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Aug. 30: Littleton CO – Denver Botanic Gardens – Chatfield
Aug. 31: Salt Lake City UT – Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
Sep. 2: Tucson, AZ – AVA Amphitheater
Sep. 4: Scottsdale AZ – Talking Stick Resort & Casino
Sep. 5: Pala CA – Pala Casino: Starlight Theater
Sep. 6: Los Angeles CA – The Greek Theatre
Sep. 8: Saratoga CA – Mountain Winery
Sep. 10: Shelton WA – Little Creek Casino Resort: Event Center
Sep. 11: Airway Heights WA – Northern Quest Resort & Casino
Sep. 12: Coquitlam BC – Hard Rock Casino: Vancouver

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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