Centre of the Performing Arts – Vancouver

Toto kicked of the North America leg of the 40 Trips Around the Sun tour in Vancouver on Monday night. It was a hot a steamy night in Vancouver, and unfortunately the venue, The Centre of the Performing Arts in Vancouver, struggled with the A/C for a while at the start of the show, or maybe it was just the excitement of the audience creating the heat.

Either way, there was a buzz in the theatre, and when the band hit the stage at 8pm the crowd was ready for action. The set kicked off with Alone, a previously unreleased song on the 40 Trips Around the Sun album, which features a handful of previously written, but published tracks in addition to tracks spanning the history of the band.  Whilst the track was well received, the audience were on their feet within the opening bars of the perennial favourite, Hold the Line, which was next up, followed the David Paich penned track Lovers in the Night from the bands most successful album Toto IV.

At this point in the show Joseph Williams introduced keyboard player Xavier Taplin.  A veteran of Prince’s band, he was a last minute stand in for David Paich, who unfortunately was not able to make the start of the tour. Taplin did a phenomenal job throughout the night, and it is hard to believe he managed to master the material on short notice.

Following this short intro, it was straight back in the music, with a great rendition of I Will Remember, which featured one of many blazing solos from Steve Lukather. With Toto’s extensive history as session musicians, as well as band in their own right, they are heavy on solos from all members of the band. English Eyes featured bassist Shem Von Schroek on bass, and Warren Ham on the flute.  It should be noted that both musicians also provided some incredible backing vocals throughout the night, with Von Schroeck singing many of the high notes brilliantly.

Following English Eyes, we had a full-on percussion battle to kick off Jake to the Bone. Shannon Forrest providing drums that would have been at home at a metal concert, as a counter to Lenny Castro congas and other instruments. Not to be outdone this song also featured some fantastic jazz tones from Taplin and to top it off, so top notch shredding from Lukather.

Bring the tempo back down to give the crowd a shot breather, the melodic Lea was next up before everyone was back on their feet for Rosanna, during which Taplin was treated to a nice back massage from Williams for his efforts, who also led some audience participation.

At this point in the show the band had a sit down on and ran through to partial renditions of tracks that the band don’t often play. Each track was introduced by one of the band, with a back story on about the tune.  This was a terrific way to learn a bit about the band’s history, as well and listening to a bunch of songs in a short time, including the Michael Jackson hit Human Nature, with Steve Porcaro penned during the recording of Africa, after his daughter had a difficult day at school.

Girl Goodbye was up next before and after introducing all the band members Steve Lukather introduced the wrong song, which momentarily non-plussed his bandmates who had a laugh at his expense…these things can be expected to happen on the first night of the tour though 😊.  Following Lion and the Dune Desert theme, Lukather introduced While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and absolutely killed it with another outstanding guitar solo. I had seen Joe Satriani earlier in the year, and it made me think it would be awesome if the two of them got together for a session. Following some wonderful sax playing from Ham on Make Believe it was time for the bands most famous hit Africa, which was nicely extended to feature Castro percussion to the max, with Williams again getting the audience to participate in the singing, which of course they did enthusiastically.

After leaving the stage, the band returned for an encore and had a treat in store for the audience. As many will know, the popularity of Africa has had a boost recently, not least because it was covered by the band Weezer. Lukather commented that the band loved the cover, and that fact that to had happened at all, and then announced that the band had decided to return the favour by covering Weezer’s hit Hash Pipe. Mentioning that they had been smoking hash since before Weezer were born and telling the audience (tongue in cheek) not to post it on YouTube “even though we know you will” the band launched into the song, which was a great end to the night.

Overall it was a great start to this leg of the tour, and a great return to Vancouver for Toto.

Photos: Stewart Johnstone