REVIEW: Toto at Summerfest

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It’s no secret that Summerfest tries to cater to everyone. That being said, with the exception of Steve Aoki, Thursday night’s headliner lineup generally skewed a little older than most nights, capped off by Toto headlining the BMO Harris Pavilion. With a career that spans 14 studio albums and six Grammys, there was plenty of material for Toto to throw into a 90 minute set, and they visited many of those albums. The pavilion was packed, and a sizable, enthusiastic (read: slightly inebriated) crowd gathered outside of the reserved seating rails to watch the band rifle through 40 years of material.

The band got things going early, with “Hold The Line” making an early appearance in the set list. Following that, a myriad of songs that may have not been the most commercially successful, but were still solid nonetheless. The band, now anchored by original members Steve Lukather, David Paich, and Steve Pocaro, gave a spirited performance, and really didn’t show many signs of slowing down over the course of their set. The band played straight through, with extended versions of many songs, giving fans a variation on the tracks that they can hear on almost any classic rock station daily.

While the crowd outside of the rails were dancing throughout the night, many of the fans within the BMO Harris Pavilion remained seated, until the band instructed their crowd to stand up to sing “one that everyone knows”, before going into an extended version of “Rosanna”. The band didn’t seem to mind jamming on hits that some fringe fans were there to see, as solos and lengthy breakdowns were commonplace by this point in the night. The band also teased their biggest hit, “Africa” at least once before going into a different tune. They knew what many people were there to see, and maybe also knew that they had to hold that song for the final jam of the night.

One interesting portion of the show was the band’s history outside of Toto itself. Many of the musicians that now make up the touring act were once either session musicians or songwriters for some of the pop and rock classics of the late 70’s and 80’s. When introducing the band to the crowd, they would accompany their name with a snippet of what they had done as a credited musician that, unless you’re really into Toto, might not have known. This included vocalist Joseph Williams breaking off just a tiny bit of “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King, in which he is the adult singing voice.

The band managed to kick out a couple more early tunes following that point in the night, with the crowd still standing, and the evening culminated in a close to 10 minute version of “Africa”, complete with solos and a group singalong from the entire BMO Harris Pavilion. For a band that has been making music for 40 years, there didn’t seem to be any fatigue from Toto, and we’ll likely all be singing “Africa” with them for years to come.

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