The 9th of March 2018 was truly a breaking point for the music culture in Croatia. A date that will be carved into the hearts and minds of a lucky bunch that witnessed the first Croatian performance of the world-famous band Toto. Metal Jacket Magazine lucky to be there as well, so we will try to share with you at least a part of that unusual, unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience. So, when the day of musical joy came, the gas tank of my car was filled all the way to the top and, in a blink of an eye, I was driving on the highway towards Zagreb. Almost hour and a half before the show, I arrived in front of Dom Sportova, the concert venue, and got trapped in a traffic jam searching for a place to park. The search went on and on for an about an hour when suddenly a wild free spot appeared. I finally got out of that goddamn vehicle to walk towards the crowded entrance. There I met my MJM colleague and a few other friends as well. After a brief conversation, we realized it’s close to 9 o’clock, which meant it was time to go inside the hall.
I was so glad to see “Dom Sportova“ was filled with a population of rockers, young ones, and the old folk, all there for the same grand reason. There were no opening acts, therefore everyone was eager to see and hear the main act. For a few moments, everything was dark and quiet and then the show had started. Into people’s range of hearing came an opera introduction, the canvas that was covering the stage fell down and there they were, the mighty eight men of Toto playing in front of the cheering Zagreb crowd. Steve Lukather, David Paich, Steve Porcaro, and Joseph Williams as the core members, accompanied by Lenny Castro, Warren Ham, Shannon Forrest and Shem von Schroeck as current touring musicians started the set with a rocking new Toto song, simply named “Alive“. From the first beats, there was no doubt that they truly are one of the best and most talented bands in all rock’n’roll history. After a great kick start, the second song brought ovations from every living being in the audience. Simply because it was one of their greatest and most known hits “Hold The Line“. When the chorus came, Joseph Williams let the crowd sing it whole. To hear “Hold the line, love isn’t always on time“ from all those Toto hungry people at the same time was an epic and mesmerizing moment. After “Hold The Line“ as an epic and everlasting (hard) rock evergreen, Toto played “Lovers In The Night“ and they really made everyone fell in love with them during that special old song from the “Toto IV“ album. Maybe it was because of the shine of pyrotechnics during the instrumental parts or Steve Lukather‘s mind-blowing guitar solo, but either way, the magic worked. Now that the old feelings have been awakened again, it was time for a trip back to the present day, since these guys started playing the brand new single “Spanish Sea“ which is a perfect indicator of how age doesn’t mean a thing when you have the knowledge and the guts to highlight vocal harmonies in such a powerful way. The atmosphere remained the same with “I Will Remember“, and the people did remember the melody and lyrics since we all were once again singing along. Toto was grateful and Joseph noticed that there were some great singers in the audience as well. The temperature heated up once again when “English Eyes“ came with it’s rocking sound. Toto would not be Toto if they didn’t present their unique musical skills, so they blew our minds away with “Jake To The Bone“, a brilliant instrumental piece which tells it’s story without saying any words. As it was expected, “Jake…“ earned one of three memorable and remarkable applauses of the evening. If there was a “Lea“, she would be knocked down on her knees because of the ballad that came afterwards. Like that wasn’t enough, it was a mere interlude to one of the greatest rock songs ever (and Toto has quite a few of those). It was also named after a woman, Toto’s late drummer Jeff Porcaro‘s girlfriend, to be precise. You all know it’s “Rosanna“ and you all know that the whole hall was up on their feet, singing that beautiful power ballad in ecstasy. Guess when the second big applause of the evening occurred? Right, you can thank Rosanna Arquette for all those claps and cheers.
Like in a theater play, “Rosanna“ marked the end of the first set. It was announced that it’s time for Acoustic Storytellers. Toto prepared a part of the set just for the songs that they didn’t play very often during the years, and which have an interesting story behind their creation. Every band member told us something about a specific song and the part of it was played in a slightly different arrangement than the usual studio recording. For example, did you know that “Human Nature“, a musical piece written for the great and late Michael Jackson was made by Steve Porcaro. After a rough day at school, his daughter came home and told him that one of her friends slapped her. “Some people will always be good and some people will always be bad.“ – Steve tried to comfort her by offering an explanation. “Why?“ – his daughter asked. “It’s all a part of the human nature.“ – Steve responded and got an inspiration for the song. Somewhere between the interesting stories, David Paich told us: “You are all my people. Do you know why I say that? My grandfather was from Split.“ The crowd was cheering, he was very glad, and I think the people of Croatia should be proud that such a great musician and songwriter to have Croatian roots.
Steve Lukather exchanged his acoustic guitar for an electric one, and that marked the beginning of the second set. After all that playing and singing, someone would have been tired. But not Toto. The band continued with nice, well-known heavy tunes, playing them in all their glory. During the heap of melodies, Steve sang a sentimental cover of a famous Beatles song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“, his guitar solo and sound wept away, leaving some of us with almost tears of joy. He praised George Harrison for his music and influence, wishing him all the best. But George Harrison wasn’t the only one that got best wishes. Steve informed us that it’s Shem von Schroeck‘s birthday, so we all sang “Happy Birthday“ to this awesome bass player. The show was after almost two and a half hours coming to an end with the tunes of “Stranger In Town“ and “Make Believe“ until the catharsis came along brought by the very first beats of “Africa“. A magical spell fell on Dom Sportova, everything was left aside and the only thing that mattered was that song. It was a long, interesting version, filled with interaction between Toto and the audience. In the middle of it, Lenny Castro had a blasting percussion solo. We all were stunned. Like with everything in life the end had to come at some point, Toto’s first performance in Croatia unfortunately came to it’s encore after more than two and a half hours.
There are not enough words to explain what a show that was. Starting with the songs picked to be on the set list, energy, technique, instrumental parts, vocal capabilities, the band’s styling and dance moves… Everything was at the highest peak of perfection, but there is something else to admire about these guys. After “40 Trips Around The Sun“ they still play with the same passion as it was their first performance. Well guys, Metal Jacket Magazine wishes you many more trips around the Sun and come back to the land of David Paich‘s roots as soon as possible!