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Toto to celebrate 40th anniversary with stop in Wabash

By Joseph Slacian

More than 40 years ago, a group of session musicians decided to form a band. Toto hit the scene in the mid ‘70s to mixed reviews. The band, with various members in the lineup, stayed together until 2008. It reformed in 2010 and has been going strong ever since.

It will be bringing its current tour, “40 Trips Around the Sun,” to the Honeywell Center’s Ford Theater on Saturday, Oct. 12.

“Man, we didn’t see it coming,” vocalist and guitarist Steve “Luke” Lukather said of the band’s longevity. “When we started out, we thought if we got eight to 10 years, that would be insanely cool. Never in a million years did we think we’d be sitting her 43 years later, despite every possible good and horrible think happening to us.

“On the other hand, we just kept going. I never really think about how much time has gone by unless it’s brought up to me. Lately it’s been brought up a lot because of what it is.”

In the early days, the band wasn’t a fan of music critics around the country. However, in recent years, Toto’s popularity has, as Luke notes, “blown up again in the last three to four years.”

One key to the renewed popularity, he believes, is due to one song, “Africa.”

“We’re taking the ride, man,” he said. “It’s been one of the most successful years we’ve ever had, in terms of playing live. Knock on wood. We’re very, very grateful and we’re laughing all the way and just going, ‘Wow.’”

The band is ensconced in pop culture, thanks in part to the first episode this season of the Fox network’s hit comedy, “Family Guy.”

“We are characters on ‘Family Guy,’” Luke said, his voice filled with excitement. “It’s a great moment for me because it’s my favorite. Pop culture at its finest.”

It’s not the first program to include band members in an episode.

“We’ve been ‘South Park’ characters,” Luke continued. “All these silly things that have happened to us. No body laughs harder than we do at ourselves, I promise you that.”

Lukather has a theory as to why critics were so harsh on the band in the early days.

“We came out at exactly the same time that punk rock did,” he said. “Talk about ying and yang, you know. Here we are, guys in high school studying music to become session musicians. Our dream was to be top session guys and have a rock band of our own and play our own music.

“We got that dream. Now, when we hit, we had no idea what we would be coming up against. When we were on the road with Boz Skaggs, we were teenagers. We were in London looking at these guys in leather jackets and purple Mohawks going, ‘What is that?’

“We just just kind of cracked up because we were listening to Yes, Genesis, prog rock, all the studio guys, all the R&B stuff, the fusion stuff. We were inspired by the greatest musicians. We were also inspired from Day 1 by The Beatles.

“When the punk thing hit, and they compared us to punk, that’s an unfair comparison. I also think that the stupid name didn’t help us. They picked us out of the genre to roast.”

At first, Luke said, band members were hurt by the criticism.

“What did we do to you?” he asked, rhetorically. “We weren’t an image band. We had four lead singers on the first album. We had diverse music, which confused them. They just wrote us off as session musicians, like that’s a bad thing.

“All these guys picking on us, it was kind of ridiculous. After we got over the initial shock we just laughed. All those guys are either dead or like 80 years old now. We outlived our haters. I mean, there are still people who hate our band. No band has universal love. We’ve taken every punch there is, and we’re still here.”

Now, the band is playing to three generations of fans.

“Some of these kids who just heard ‘Africa’ realize we’ve got 20 records out and they start buying them,” Luke said. “Our whole catalog is flying out. Kids are coming to the gigs and are coming back.”

The band recently performed at the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas, Nev., before 50,000 kids between 15 and 25 years of age.

“Not everything we did was incredible,” he admits. “We have a couple of funny tunes in there. When we remastered the box set I heard a couple of tunes in there I haven’t heard since we cut them. We laughed at some of the real naïve lyrics.

“So, we understand some of the criticism, but come on, man, we’re not the worst thing to ever happen to music.”

The band’s resurgence, Luke admits, is because of the song “Africa.” It gained new popularity when it was released by the band Weezer, and featured Weird Al Yankovic on the music video.

“We never saw that as a hit single to start with,” Lukather said. “We buried it on the fourth record. We made this huge record, over produced it. We had so much fun doing it. We had so much fun in the studio; we were just kids in our early 20s being able to do whatever we wanted to do. We had the money to do it. We had the time to do it.

“We made this whole huge record, and then Dave (Paich, keyboardist) came in with the lyrics and we started laughing. We were like, ‘Dave, really?’”

The song, among other things, mentions Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti.

“We were reading this thing, and we were going, ‘Dave, it’s really cool that you figured out how to use these words, but what does it really mean to us?’” Luke said. “He sold it to us hard. It’s a very catchy tune. The melody and the riffs in it, of course, are memorable, otherwise it wouldn’t come back. The lyrics are kind of winced at.

“But now, after all these years, people dig the tune because it doesn’t have any political message to it. It’s not a love song to bum somebody out. It’s just this weird little tune that just struck a nerve. It freaks me out just how much of a nerve it struck on a worldwide basis. If it gets people in to see the rest of our work, it’s a win-win situation.”

Tickets for the Oct. 12 Toto show are $39, $55 and $125. They are available at the Honeywell Center box office, by calling 260-563-1102 or by visiting honyewellcenter.org.

“We’re just really looking forward to bringing the show to you guys,” Lukather said. “It’s pretty tight rocking, so please come out and see us. For those who are on the fence, you might be surprised. For those already coming, thanks for showing up.”
 

Posted on 2019 Oct 01