World-renowned rock band Toto brought a booming crowd to Shippensburg University’s H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center Saturday night for a stop on their “40th Trip Around the Sun” concert tour.
The group, composed of several of the original members as well as talented and long-serving musicians they met along the way, brought together many songs from Toto’s 40-year history. Several of the older songs were re-envisioned to keep things fresh and polished.
The band was fronted by Joseph Williams Jr., famous in his own right, whose soaring tenor voice was backed by the energetic guitar virtuosity of Steve Lukather, an original member. Steve Porcaro, also one of the first members of Toto, who is a stellar synth keyboardist, was joined by Dominique Xavier Taplin, a talented pianist who replaced David Paich, one of the founding members. Paich is sick and was unable to make the tour.
Though the other members of the band poked fun at Taplin for being so young, they praised him for his skill at the keys.
The group was also joined by percussionist Lenny Castro, drummer Shannon Forrest and bassist Shem von Schroeck, who sang high harmonies over the rest of the band with his tenor voice. Finally, Warren Ham played soprano and alto saxophones, flute and harmonica to back the group up and bust out a few solos of his own. Ham also contributed vocal harmonies.
Throughout the concert, Toto performed several well-known songs of theirs including “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna,” “Make Believe,” “Girl Goodbye” and more. Williams Jr. left the stage for “Jake to the Bone,” a wicked number that featured each of the instrumentalists. Lukather and von Schroeck danced and played to each other, while Porcaro bounced around on his feet behind his keyboard like he did not care.
Lukather expressively articulated a flurry of notes across his guitar. He bent notes with astonishing precision, to which the crowd booed enthusiastically. Make no mistake — the audience loved “Luke,” and booing him was a tongue-in-cheek way of expressing it.
Lukather’s performance peaked when he performed a solo for Toto’s cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” He soulfully tore across the strings of his electric guitar and made use of a delay pedal to loop his music back while he continued to play a different line. This resulted in a full, layered sound that Lukather created harmonies with. The audience booed with approval.
Toto offered a unique, 13-minute-long rendition of their immensely popular song “Africa.” Williams Jr. walked out onto the stage wearing Paich’s signature top hat in honor of their friend who could not make it to the concert.
Williams incited the audience to sing the chorus of “Africa” back to the band throughout the course of the magnanimous extension of the song. This climaxed to the point where the band dropped out, and the room filled with fans cheering “I bless the rains down in Africa!” The song also featured a percussion solo by Castro on congas drums, backed by Forrest on the trap set.
Before the concert, the North-Eastern High School marching band, led by senior drum major Trent Stauffer, 18, under the direction of Timothy Howell, played in front of Luhrs. They performed “Africa” and “Hold the Line,” two popular Toto songs, which were a part of their field show.
Porcaro acknowledged the band and even revealed that he was a drum major for his high school band.
“Thank you for coming to our 40th birthday!” Lukather shouted to the audience.