Tuesday 27 September 2016

Toto at Vicar Street, Dublin review - 'endlessly engaging repertoire of proto-metal balladry, cod-funk and cloud-scraping anthems'

Published 24/05/2015 | 13:22

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 07: Steve Lukather of Toto performs at The Greek Theatre on August 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Oliver Walker/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 07: Steve Lukather of Toto performs at The Greek Theatre on August 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Oliver Walker/Getty Images)

On the same night Dublin celebrated a 'yes' vote in the gay marriage referendum, a different sort of party was taking place at Vicar Street.

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Here, devotees of classic rock had gathered to worship before free-wheeling riffs, florid drum runs and keyboard rhapsodies from a piano player who wore a magician's top hat, apparently without irony.

In fact, self-awareness was in meagre supply throughout this first Irish performance in over 20 years by soft rock institution Toto.

A delicious overabundance characterized the evening, with guitarist and band leader Steve Lukather delivering rollicking solos and singer Joseph Williams (son of Star Wars composer John ) hitting the back wall in a style between Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury.

To the snootier stripe of music fan, classic rock is the love that dare not speak its name. But watching Toto proceed through an endlessly engaging repertoire of proto-metal balladry, cod-funk and cloud-scraping anthems you felt a nostalgic ache for the era when bands were allowed – indeed required – to zoom lustily over the top.

There were no deeper meanings to ponder, much less any stabs at critic-pandering 'credibility'. Toto had come to rock – nothing more, certainly nothing less.

The group, formed in Los Angeles in the late 70s, notched up several hits in their heyday and they played them all.

Hold The Line lurched between silly and glorious, like Bon Jovi trying to rewrite Meat Loaf; Rosanna was a white-soul souffle that catapulted the concert straight towards drive-time nirvana.

"Are we forgetting anything?" wondered Lukather as Toto returned for a second encore. This was by way of introducing Africa, their 'yacht rock' perennial  – a romping mash-up of cheesy keys, epic falsettos and gloriously daft lyrics (rhyming 'company' with 'Serengeti' is only one among many highlights). Who could resist?

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