Close your eyes, open your ears wide, click your heels three times and you could be in the Maracana.
Universally famous for mega-hit Africa (treat yourself to a choral version or two on YouTube), Toto has been one of the world's most successful stadium bands for the last four decades. Their visit to Cork is an 'intimate' show that will live long in the memory.
Their brilliance was clearly no secret to the packed (and I mean 'packed') Marquee. That said, confessions on the table, I went along knowing little enough about them bar the hits. The Monahan Road may not look too much like the road to Damascus, but it does now share the commonality of playing host to at least one conversion.
Toto were monstrously good. Magical repertoire, off-the-chart musicianship, vocal virtuosity, entertainment value, engagement with the audience (notably paying tribute to recently deceased Philomena Lynnot and to Phil, “we know he's a national treasure here, and rightly so”), they're just off somewhere on a musical planet of their own magnificence.
“Aliens do exist and we have the proof,” said singer Joe Williams, pointing at Steve Lukather, a supernatural guitarist and owner of minimum one crazy two-tone sports jacket and one even crazier big hairdo.
Lukather was just as playful introducing Williams, recalling their school days hanging around the Williams house by playing the theme from Jaws, film score composed by John, Joe's dad. What a household to grow up in.
Everyone onstage with Toto has a tale to tell. An incredible band: Dominique "Xavier" Taplin, taking over on keyboards for David Paich, previously played with Prince. Shannon Forrest on drums, Lenny Castro on percussion, Warren Ham on multi instruments with saxophone and vocals as his main weapons and Shem von Schroeck on bass and vocals, “stolen” from Don Felder's band. You'll find their individual stories on stevelukather.com and elsewhere.
Among other hits, pianist Steve Porcaro wrote Human Nature for Michael Jackson. Joe Williams has a writing credit for Hakuna Matata in The Lion King. Steve Lukather is the main guitarist and bass player on Michael Jackson's Beat It and loves joking about Eddie Van Halen stealing all the credit with his flashy solo.
In fact, in the industry, Toto is known as the modern era Wrecking Crew (the legendary 1960/70s studio band). Toto's studio backing credits too long and (for most) probably too nerdy to list here. Look them up on your online encyclopaedia of choice.
So back to the tent. Wow, what a night. All the hits: Hold The Line, Rosanna, Georgy Porgy, Stop Loving You, plus the theme from the film Dune, an excerpt from Human Nature (played in a brilliant acoustic mini-set, for many the highlight of the night) and an awesome cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the Beatles song written by George Harrison, Lukather's old musical friend.
Others would argue that the highlight was Xavier's piano break, or Shem's stunning high register vocals, or perhaps when Lenny and Shannon take over the stage for a 5-minute percussion break during Africa. What a song to close a phenomenal set with. The audience owned Africa. Decibel-wise, only Noel Gallagher's Don't Look Back in Anger could match it on the singalometer.
I've been to quite a few Marquee shows over the years. Once again, I've gone along like an old blase greybeard only to exit the tent two hours later as a whistling teen. Refreshed from supping at the fountain of this musical cocoon. Toto, if I owned a hat, I'd take it off to you. If I had red shoes, I'd click my heels three times in your honour. Sincere thanks for coming to our town. There really is no place like home.