It was high noon in South Carolina but it was 9 a.m. across the country in California as I called Steve Porcaro, an original member-keyboard player/vocalist, for the band Toto, which plays Wednesday at The Old Town Amphitheater in Rock Hill.
Porcaro answered the phone on the third ring ready to talk about the band’s upcoming tour, their music, and their stop in Rock Hill.
The band known as Toto – not an ‘Oz’ reference, by the way – emerged from California with a classic meets progressive rock sound. Formed in 1977, this Grammy-winning ensemble of skilled studio musicians released their self-titled debut album in 1978.
Now, roughly 38 years later, Toto has released 17 albums, sold over 35 million albums worldwide, and picked up six Grammys while dishing out classic hits such as “Africa,” “Hold The Line,” “Rosanna” and more.
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The current lineup features core Toto members Steve Lukather, guitars/vocals; David Paich, keyboards/vocals; Porcaro, keyboards/vocals and Joseph Williams, vocals; plus Lenny Castro, percussion; Shannon Forest, drums; Leland Sklar, bass; and back-up vocalists Mabvuto and Jenny Douglas.
Their concert in Rock Hill is billed as “An Evening With Toto.” The approximately two-hour performance will feature music from their latest studio album “XIV,” along with classic Toto hits accented possibly by a few band and fan favorites from their extensive catalog. That catalog reveals an elegant rock soundtrack, lush with imagery, vision and sound that often echoes mystery and magic.
Steve Porcaro is clearly happy to be starting a tour, leaving Thursday to hit Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, then on to Rock Hill,. “We’re really looking forward to going out on the road here in the States,” Porcaro said. Last year they did co-headlining dates, so this year, he says, “we’re on our own, and we have the opportunity to pay our full two hour European set.”
“We’re still bringing it live,” Porcaro declared. “We’re definitely not a broken band – this version of Toto features half the original members of the band who were a huge part of our success.”
Along the way, Toto sometimes ran into some critics with the idea that as former “studio musicians” perhaps the band was overly serious, even calculated. Porcaro’s view is understandably different. “Early on we cared so much about the music,” he recalls. “There was so much energy … we were trying so hard … we really came down on each other sometimes – with disagreements, often about direction, but that’s so much water under the bridge. Now, we just accept each other for how we are. ...
“Quirks are what make the band.”
Porcaro is thankful “to make a living doing music – one of the most amazing gifts,” he said, “to make a living out of what we love. We’re constantly aware of how lucky we are. There’s nothing wrong with working hard on the music and performance, learning your craft – the goal is to keep the music interesting, find that balance when writing hooky pop songs that we all love and keep it musically interesting to play.”
As far as the personnel in the band, Porcaro explains, “It’s our chemistry with each other – the way we write songs and use that chemistry. ... We’re all fans of each other. We’re lucky that way.”
Looking forward to the early stop in Rock Hill, Porcaro sent this message: “Let them know how excited we are coming there. We’re champing at the bit, dying to get out there for this blast for the year. We’ll get everybody up on their feet and we’ll rock the house,” he promised, saying “you can quote me on that – thank you.”
They’re the band one music industry notable cited as so unusual that, “there’s never been better musicians on the planet, especially in a band together.” Share that thrill and total sensation of Toto, live Wednesday at the Old Town Amphitheater, 144 E. Black St., Rock Hill. Gates open at 6 p.m. For show time, ticket info and other concert details check onlyinoldtown.com. Get more on the music at totoofficial.com and facebook.com/totoband.
Friday: Rachel Kate, Slade Baird, Nicholas Holman at Amelie’s Bakery, Rock Hill; Ben Gatlin Duo at McHale’s on Main, Rock Hill; Songwriter Showcase/Open Mic with Michael Wayne Avery, Brewer Brothers at Ledo Pizza, Rock Hill; Chubby Knuckles at WingbonzLive, Rock Hill; Oneppo Brothers at Luke’s Sports Bar & Grill, Rock Hill; Catawba River Monster at The Handle Bar, Catawba; The Rockaholics at John’s Place, Fort Mill; LJTT Acoustic at Hobo’s, Fort Mill; Randy Clay Band at T-Bones on the Lake, Lake Wylie.
Saturday: Carolina Nation at Revolutions, The Galleria, Rock Hill; Jody Edwards & Co. at Original Empire Pizza, Rock Hill; Dazey Jayne at Luke’s Sports Bar & Grill, Rock Hill; Soul Therapy at The End Zone, Rock Hill; Chubby Knuckles at T-Bones on the Lake, Lake Wylie; Parodi Kings at Pineville Tavern, Pineville.
Sunday: Chubby Knuckles at The Handle Bar, Catawba; Cadence Duo at T-Bones on the Lake, Lake Wylie.
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