Yes and Toto's Replacement Players Had a Night of Hits and Misses at Verizon
Ain't that much different than the real thing, baby: Jon Davison is one of Yes' many replacement players.
Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Holding a band together for decades at a time is a tough ask. Eventually attrition takes its toll, whether it's age, illness or the members simply growing sick of one another. Yes and Toto have managed to stick things out for five and four decades respectively, but it's meant bringing in an increasing number of replacement players. This year alone, both bands have suffered the death of a key member.
Yet when the remnants of each came to Verizon Theatre on Thursday for a dual headlining show, their biggest challenge came from an uneven sound mix. Despite fine efforts by both bands, it was like half of the place's monstrous PA wasn't working. It was as if the show at Verizon had been mixed for the Granada Theater.
Toto started the night off a little after 7:30 and did an impressive set of their best-known tunes, hits that are rarely heard now and new songs. The band was formed by former studio musicians who could play any style, but they wanted to play rock music for the Top 40 charts. Despite many, many lineup changes over the years, they're currently touring with a number of their original members: guitarist Steve Lukather, bassist David Hungate and keyboardists David Paich and Steve Porcaro.
Joined by longtime vocalist Joseph Williams, new drummer Shannon Forrest, backing vocalists Mabvuto Carpenter and Jenny Douglas-Foote, and legendary percussionist Lenny Castro, they played like a full-on band instead of a collective of hired hands.
What was that band's name again? Oh yes, I remember.
With 13 songs in their 90-minute set, Toto threw in some extended solos and jams, but they really focused on the songs themselves. Right into the opener of "Running Out of Time," the three-part (sometimes five-part) harmonies were prominent. That made a huge difference, showing how strong their material still sounds. Williams hit the majority of the high notes with ease as he sauntered around the stage and between Lukather's many runs up and down his fretboard.
The mostly-over-40 crowd was on its feet during the big hits like "Hold the Line," "Rosanna" and "Africa." "Hold the Line" is usually a show-stopper live but it felt very restricted and restrained compared to how the band has done it in recent years.
Forrest had huge shoes to fill, taking over the drum throne for Simon Phillips and the late, great Jeff Porcaro. He had a firm grasp of the Porcaro Shuffle, which combined the flash of Bernard Purdie with the stomp of John Bonham, on "Rosanna" and "Pamela."
At a couple of moments during the set, there were short tributes to former bassist Mike Porcaro and Yes bassist Chris Squire, who both died earlier this year. They were heartfelt and not half-assed.
Toto drew on replacement members such as Joseph Williams too, but had far more originals.
But overall, Toto's time was enjoyable and right to the point, even when the house sound cut out during the first verse of the closer, "Africa." Somehow, the sound came back right on cue as Williams hit the chorus.
Before Yes started, an extremely moving video tribute to Squire played. Images of his life on and off stage drew cheers to the late bassist from the audience. Then the five-piece came on.
Led by guitarist Steve Howe, the longest-tenured member of the band, he was joined by longtime drummer Alan White, along with Geoff Downes on keyboards, Billy Sherwood on bass and vocalist Jon Davison. Davison, hired to replace the skyscraper-high vocals of Jon Anderson in 2012, did a commendable job, keeping things light and positive with his showmanship and minimal between-song banter.
Problem was, the band played like they were playing to the first 20 rows. White's drumming was so soft and timid that it prevented the band from going full throttle. Sherwood was barely a presence in the low end, especially since there was very little of it. Howe was incredible and extremely audible, blending Spanish guitar lines with folk, jazz, classical and rock.
It was good to see Yes still going in some kind of capacity, and the warmth of the crowd's responses was very obvious. Without Yes, there would be no Opeth, Dream Theater or even Rush or Genesis. Deaths and lineup changes can't stop this band's enduring legacy, but perhaps they've taken a toll. Something was lost in translation on Thursday night, and it had to do with more than just the sound issues.
Steve Lukather and David Hungate were founding members of Toto.
Toto's set list:
"Running Out of Time"
"I'll Supply the Love"
"Hold the Line"
"Afraid of Love"
"Without Your Love"
"On the Run"
Yes's set list:
"Don't Kill the Whale"
"Going for the One"
"Time and a Word"
"I've Seen All Good People"
"Owner of a Lonely Heart'