Toto Blesses the Rains Down in Kansas City

Steve Lukather crushing a guitar solo in Kansas City
Photo by Josh Chaikin

We’ve completed one trip around the sun, since Toto last came through on their 40 Trips Around the Sun tour, with no sign of slowing down. With a set list largely unchanged since their last stop, they still packed the Uptown Theater on Friday night, with a line stretching around the building, and people parking blocks away, hoofing it through the then dry Kansas City.

Toto took to the stage shortly after 8:00 with little fanfare. No pre-roll video. No opening act. Lights go down, music starts, and the atmosphere becomes electrified. The show opened with the previously unreleased Devil’s Tower, originally slated for 1982’s Toto IV. A very fitting addition to the set, which would include pieces from all of Toto’s career.

By the time they moved into the second song, Hold the Line, things had already reached a fevered pitch, and everyone was on their feet, singing along. Steve Lukather, Joseph Williams, and Steve Porcaro came in with a lot of energy, and the audience quickly fed off of it. It was infectious, electric, and fun.

After their rendition of Lovers in the Night, Lukather took a moment to apologize to the crowd for his mess up earlier in the set, explaining that he had to call his daughter just before they took the stage, to tell her that their dog had passed away. It was a sad, sweet moment that reminded everyone that the band is human, too. But, Steve plowed through the set with the same good humor, and virtuosity that we’ve come to expect.

The show was broken into two pieces, with the second half being “acoustic,” everyone coming downstage, seated. When Steve pulled out his acoustic guitar, chants of “Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke!” echoed throughout the theater. Steve, with a sly grin replied “I hope you’re not booing me!” It was a set that included introductions for each of the songs, like Georgy Porgy, and Human Nature. A song made famous by Michael Jackson, but written in response to Steve Parcaro’s daughter being bullied.

Of special note in the band’s touring lineup is Xavier Taplin, filling in for David Paich, who is still recovering from illness. Xavier played the Toto songs flawlessly, while adding his own flair, and even getting the chance for his own solo during the set. Most impressive of all was that he had learned the entire set for the tour in two days. The joy he showed while performing was abundantly clear.

The remainder of the set would include oddities like Desert Theme, from the Dune soundtrack. And Steve’s heartfelt cover of The Beatle’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. And it wouldn’t be a Toto show without that song. You know the one. The one that’s only introduced with “Are you guys ready for that song?” And boy were we ever.

While some people may have taken to their seats for the duration of the show, there was no sitting during what has been called the greatest song of all time (we won’t get into that discussion here, though). It’s a great song on the album, and live, they draw it out for 12 minutes, with extended drum solos, bebopping, scatting, audience interaction, and lots of fun in general.

Toto performed for just over two hours to a nearly sold out Uptown Theater. As we exited the theater into the night, the skies had opened up in Kansas City, blessing us with a little (torrential) rain of our own. Few bands sound as good live as they do on the record; Toto, all members cutting their chops as session guys, deliver a show as close to sonic perfection as I’ve seen. Their technical, and artistic expertise is on full display. They don’t tour because they have to; they tour because they want to, and that is very clear.

If they’re coming your way, be sure you do not miss them.

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin

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