20 Sep 2019
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  • Gig Review: Toto with Jefferson Starship and Dragon @ ASB Baypark, Mount Maunganui - 09/01/2019

Gig Review: Toto with Jefferson Starship and Dragon @ ASB Baypark, Mount Maunganui - 09/01/2019

10 Jan 2019 // A review by Brendan McCarthy

The entertainment on offer in Tauranga in the summer of 2018/19 was lined up to be a significant upgrade to previous years when this gig was announced back in August 2017. With other established large events in the area catering to the Reggae and under 25 markets, this event was set to draw out the (genre alert) "Adult Contemporary Fans". And that it did with a large crowd converging on Bay Park with picnic attire, folding chairs and chilli bin supplies to settle in for an evening of world class entertainment.

First up and bang on time at 5.30 was Dragon. Presenting a basic 2 guitar, bass and drums line-up, they launched into the first part of their set, including well known live staple Still in Love with You and a cover of the John Farnham track Age of Reason, immediately proving that this format would be all that was required to deliver a big sound. Mark Williams leads the band with a commanding vocal presence that is backed with some seasoned backing vocals by drummer Pete Drummond and the last remaining founding member Todd Hunter on Bass. Incidentally Todd sat on a bar stool to perform the gig suggesting that Dragon have been working very hard recently, none the less he gave a stellar performance. A surprise Drum solo including some brilliant double kick work from Pete Drummond got the crowd pumping to raise the energy and help set the mood for the inevitable string of hits that were to come. But there was still time to add some depth with a great sing along of the 1989 comeback Young Years which Williams dutifully announced was written by Sharon O’Neill. With the crowd good and ready it was time to deliver the home run tracks April Sun in Cuba, Rain, Are You Old Enough and a masterful version of Celebration by Kool & the Gang. Dragon delivered Part 1 of a 3 part series leaving the crowd happy, thirsty and ready for more.

After a short break it was announced that Jefferson Starship were ready to go, and they walked on stage to a swelling wall of keyboards and guitar that immediately introduced their massive sound.

An initial disappointment for this reviewer was the realisation that the band did not have a bass player and that all bass parts would be played on Keyboards, but this was fairly quickly overshadowed by two lead vocalists displaying a master class in vocal control and delivery, backed by a solid crew of class A musicians. For a band whose roots go back to the mid-sixties there was clearly going to be a lot of back catalogue to call on to entertain the punters. The band played a strong set that took the crowd through the catalogue with highlights being Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, Sara and an astounding version of White Rabbit that displayed the incredible vocal range of Cathy Richardson.

The crowd were rallied into a respectful cheer when it was announced that male lead vocalist David Freiburg had recently celebrated his eightieth birthday potentially making him both the oldest man in Rock and definitely the oldest person present at the gig.

Drawing the middle spot in a show like this is always a tough call made even worse when the next band on is umm TOTO!!! but Jefferson Starship proved that they deserved to be on the bill and wound up Part 2 of a 3 part series with their class and experience.

So, the moment that everyone has waited 9 months to see has finally arrived. The crowd await the arrival of superstars. Then in an instant it’s here. Most of Toto walk swiftly on stage and begin the opening bars of Alone setting the stage for the arrival of 'The Man' Steve Lukather, who storms the stage with his guitar strapped to his hip and instantly sends the crowd into a frenzy. It’s not long before we are treated to the first lead break of the evening and very quickly reminded that we, here in Tauranga, are watching one of the greatest guitar players of all time. A quick head count of the band members totals eight and further realisation that we are about to witness more than one musical genius. With the first track complete and the shock of the rock n roll moment setting in we are treated to the smack of the snare and the signature piano stabs of Hold the Line.

Long serving lead vocalist Joe Williams treats us to his massive range and the crowd sings along to the first of the big hits.

Toto begin to take us on a musical journey that shows why they are considered by many to be the best “prog rock” band on the planet. The next few tracks, while not necessarily being well known hits are simply mesmerising and the band hold the crowd’s attention with their world class arrangements and musical ability. The band members see below are all hugely successful musicians who are completely comfortable in their own skin and rightly deserve a place on the Toto stage. As the set continues Toto effortlessly bring the crowd down to earth with a beautiful acoustic track Lea which sets the scene, and you just know another massive track is coming. For the hardened musos in the audience it was obvious what was next, and this reviewer had time to lay a quick $5 bet with a friend that the Porcaro shuffle was coming. And there it was. Rosanna was launched like a glorious sonic boom across Bay Park that united the crowd and defined the moment. Toto performed the track like it was written yesterday with class and effortless precision. The glorious sound that the 8-piece band delivers can only be surpassed by a symphony orchestra. With the set approximately at the half way mark, Steve Lukather announces that they want to fit in as much music as possible as time is limited. The next few tracks are shortened versions of Georgy Porgy, Human Nature from Michael Jackson's Thriller and Girl Goodbye. The band then launch into some extended instrumental tracks displaying not only Lukather on guitar but the jar dropping piano talent of Dominique 'Xavier' Talpin. The home straight is upon us with some old school Toto via tracks Make Believe and a cover of George Harrison's While my Guitar Gently Weeps, then Lukather asks the question “is it time for that song now?”

So, we have reached the top of the mountain. It has been commanded out of the ground at Bay Park by one of the greatest live bands of all time. Toto have proven that they are the best of the best and humbled us by coming to our house. Africa launches to mass applause and every person within a 10k radius sings every line of the song. It is a defining moment and one that this reviewer will never forget. The song peaks with a call and response between the crowd and percussion maestro Lenny Castro singing the scat of the hook line “ba bup ba ba bup bup ba” then finishes with a massive crescendo that blasts like a rocket into the Bay sky. So, it’s complete and Toto walk off stage. But its only 9:54! We have six minutes yet. Toto don’t disappoint and are back for an encore within a minute. They launch into Hash Pipe by Weezer but with a Toto arrangement that rightly has a key change so that Lukather can deliver the final guitar solo of the evening and leave every musician in the house heading home for a bit of practise. Toto line up together in theatrical style and bow to the crowd before running off stage. Now it really is over. Part 3 of a 3 Part Series. Complete.

Footnote: If you live in New Plymouth, Christchurch or Napier. Go and see Toto. Pay for the gold tickets. You will not regret it.

 

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