Toto takes on Tauranga

Toto in 2018 includes Steve Porcaro, David Paich, Steve Lukather and Joseph Williams.

One of the world’s favourite American rock bands will meet Tauranga residents all the way, at what’s been pegged as the region’s hottest gig of the summer.

Toto touches down in Tauranga on January 9 at Trustpower Baypark, supported by Jefferson Starship and Kiwi favourites, Dragon.

Toto keyboardist and songwriter Steve Porcaro spoke to The Weekend Sun ahead of the coveted New Zealand tour, to fill us in on what the last few years have looked like for the group.

“It’s been fantastic,” says Steve. “There’s definitely been this upward momentum with more people showing up to our concerts and the support for ‘Africa’ has been crazy.

“We’ve heard so many different versions of it. It’s hysterical, and of course we love it, but we’re as baffled as everyone.”

Steve says the group has been enjoying life and creating new music, the most recent being their ‘40 Trips Around the Sun’ album.

The album includes archived tracks, featuring Steve, his brothers – late band members Jeff and Mike Porcaro – along with new tracks written by current members David Paich, Steve Lukather and Joseph Williams.

“I feel like I’m just getting going writing-wise, none of us think we’ll be Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars but I’m really excited at what we’re going to be working on going ahead.”

As one of Toto’s founding members, Steve says it’s been great watching the band develop. He identifies their fourth studio album ‘Toto IV’ as one of the group’s greatest milestones.

“The stars just aligned really well during this album and we were making tracks like ‘Rosanna’ which showed what the band was all about. That part of our career is something I’ll always be really proud of.”

Steve says one of the bigger challenges however has been losing both of his brothers.

“I’ve always been ‘Jeff’s little brother’, I grew up that way until suddenly I became older than he ever was. That’s sometimes daunting, because he casts quite a shadow.”

Steve explains his relationship with his brothers as complex, particularly with Jeff.

“We were often at each other’s throats while we also loved each other deeply. He was one of my biggest fans but would never tell me that to my face.

“Until the day he died I would always call him when I had a demo to play for him and he would always be there within a half-hour.”

Nowadays Steve says the band is more relaxed. “It’s so much more fun. We’re different people and there’s this new level of confidence we’re bringing to these shows. You can really feel it. “

Steve says this renewed confidence coupled with the ‘level of musicianship’ the band is bringing will be a recipe for one of the best parties in town.

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Despite a 27-year break from touring, Steve says he’s fallen back into old routines easily. “I was with the band from the very beginning until after the sixth album ‘Farenheit’.

“After this I was no longer an official member but I was still touring and working with the band on new music, just not at the same level of intensity. I took a 27-year break before I started touring again.

“Even though I was out of the band for a long time I’ve jumped back into my old role easily.

“We appreciate each other a lot more now – the band has been through a lot of ups and downs so we know when things are good to enjoy it and appreciate it. Life kicks your ass and we’ve all evolved because of it.

“Every day is an adventure, there’s always some insanity that we laugh until we cry about. We live for the gig and no amount of money can pay for that.

“We’re so looking forward to coming to New Zealand. We get so much love from this part of the world, yet we so rarely get to go there.”

The visit to New Zealand will be a first for Steve. “I have never been to New Zealand. My first real gig was when I was 17, working with Gary Wright while he was touring for his album ‘The Dream Weaver’. This was in 1976 to 1977.

“When I left, the next place Gary went on tour was to New Zealand and Australia.”

After this Porcaro played with Boz Scaggs and similarly his departure from the touring band meant he missed another chance to visit the country.

“Then I was in Toto for a very large chunk of time, left and the very next place they went after that was Australia and New Zealand.

“I’m finally getting the chance to come here and I’m hoping to make some favourite spots while I’m there.”

Steve says while the tour schedule hasn’t been finalised yet, he still hopes to get around the Bay of Plenty and enjoy the region.

“Our fans are continually changing, that’s the great thing. You see the same people as you saw in high school but then we also get a lot of them bringing their children.

“It’s always very calculated I’m not up there improvising, I love pulling off what happened on the records live, that’s always been my thing in the band. I have fun, there’s no rules.”

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