Toto falls flat at the Chumash
September 20, 2012
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Those are appropriate adages for many aspects of life and can certainly be applied to aging pop/rock acts as well. But as a reviewer, I’m usually pretty forgiving so if passionate, talented artists want to jam into their golden years, go for it.
Look at the old blues guys, our respect for them only grows stronger as they age.
But a successful late 70s early 80s band like Toto had better bring the goods and more if they want to avoid the joke category. So that was my hope as I made the 60-minute sojourn to Santa Ynez for another promising Thursday night show at the Chumash Casino Resort.
A large, decidedly older crowd (OK, middle age) eagerly awaited the veteran southern California sextet, who were fresh off a European tour where their popularity remains high. Isn’t David Hasselhoff an icon in Germany too?
And not to disappoint, three solid if pedestrian songs into the set, Toto displayed all of the catchy keyboard melodies, guitar riffs and soaring vocals that made them a powerhouse pop group 30 years ago. ‘Rosanna’ then got the crowd on its feet and my wishes were surely coming true.
But something happened on the way to live music bliss and sadly it’s a common refrain. Rock stars too often run away from their strengths and fail to create any momentum or mojo to carry them and their fans through the night.
So rather than medleying into hits like ‘I’ll Suppy the Love,’ ‘Georgy Porgy’ and ’99’, the Toto lads focused on other mediocre songs that kept the audience at bay. Even MJ’s ‘Human Nature’ failed to excite the masses.
It’s not like they had any new tracks to trot out, at least that would have been understandable. And of course, the dueling guitar/bass instrumentals halfway into the show didn’t help either.
A word to the wise, guys: play your hits! Otherwise, I’ll just saunter down to the local watering hole for half the hassle and cost.
Don’t get me wrong, these fellas are really talented, if a bit pompous, pretentious musicians. Lead guitarist Steve Lukather is a session legend in the Los Angeles area, diminutive pianist David Paich wrote most of Toto’s hit songs and has produced many other recordings. Steve Porcaro, despite looking like your tax accountant, is a fiend on keyboards. And drummer Simon Phillips is a somewhat unheralded rock legend.
Unfortunately, the whole isn’t always greater than the sum of its parts. Lukather did his best, nicely interacting with the crowd at times but the bond just wasn’t there. And gum chewing lead singer Joseph Williams clad in white shoes, a white tie and stone-washed jeans evoked a bad college preppie flashback.
Finally, Toto gave us their distinctive piano intro to ‘Hold the Line’ but drew the classic tune out too long and then exited the stage before their encore of ‘Africa’ and ‘Home of the Brave.’ By then it was too little, too late.
Not even nostalgia could bail them out on this night.
If you missed Toto, no worries. The casino venue is wrapping up another stellar 2012 concert season with upcoming Samala Showroom performances by Alison Krauss, Ian Anderson, Asia and B.B. King.