Toto was all set to do a summer devoted to the release of a new greatest hits compilation, 40 Trips Around the Sun. Then Weezer made them a hip band again.
Earlier in the year, Weezer released note-for-note covers of “Africa” and “Rosanna,” two of the most recognizable songs Toto has recorded. There have been seven million YouTube views of the “Africa” cover, and Weezer performed the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Joining them for a cameo was Toto’s longtime keyboardist Steve Porcaro, playing the parts originally performed by David Paich.
Porcaro was familiar with Weezer, thanks to his daughter.
“Prior to that, I was just kind of a casual fan,” Porcaro says from his home in California. “I remember my daughter pointed them out to me when the ‘Buddy Holly’ video was on. My daughter was way into it. Then I would absolutely hear what was on the radio, along with everybody else. They had a great batch of songs and amazing records.”
Working with Weezer was a joy, even though it was a quick walk in and walk out.
“The guys were real sweet and great, and it was fun,” Porcaro says. “I kinda felt it was this fun Weezer moment.”
Toto in turn decided to return the favor, by covering Weezer’s “Hash Pipe,” and they debuted it in Vancouver at the end of July.
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“We figured since we were smoking hash before they were born, that’s the one we should do,” guitarist Steve Lukather said before playing the song live for the first time. “I’m not condoning this sort of behavior, but we were young once.”
Porcaro chalks this up as yet another part of the band’s story. The band came together as sidemen and studio musicians, and they popped out a number of hits starting in the late 1970s. Porcaro and his brothers Mike and Jeff were a part of the band for many years, while still working as studio musicians for various artists, including Michael Jackson. (Jeff died in 1992 while Mike passed in 2015.)
The current version of the band features Joseph Williams on lead vocals, Lukather on guitar and Porcaro on keyboards. Founding member and fellow keyboardist Paich is currently on sabbatical from touring. Aided by touring musicians on drums, percussion, keyboards and backing vocals, the band is happy to play longer sets this summer.
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“We’re not doing our co-headlining set list, which is really what most people hear in the States,” Porcaro says. “This time around, you’re really going to hear our two-hour set that we play in Europe that has a lot of deep cuts. A lot of songs that have never been played live before. We try to keep it interesting for ourselves.”
Porcaro credits perseverance as to why Toto has kept going for 40 years.
“As opposed to chasing hits and trying to please record companies, it’s so much more now,” he says. “We’re just looking at what made Toto Toto and trying to put forward the best version of that. We’re making all kinds of new music, too. We’re sincerely excited about the stuff we’re doing.”
Toto plays The Theatre at Grand Prairie on Tuesday, Aug. 14.