Toto fans woke up yesterday to the news that the band was re-forming exactly one year after announcing an indefinite hiatus. “There is a refreshing, optimistic enthusiasm to step in to the future,” guitarist Steve Lukather said in a statement. “The hope is to move forward with the planned itinerary for Summer 2021 that will bring us back to our fans across the World.”
But this isn’t the same Toto that said goodbye in 2019. Founding keyboardist Steve Porcaro, who played with the group from their first decade and then returned for the previous decade, is out of the group. Also absent is keyboardist David Paich, best known for co-writing their signature hit “Africa” and singing lead on the verses. He missed the past few tours due to health problems, but he guested on the final gig of the 2019 run.
Joining Lukather will be vocalist Joseph Williams, who sang with the band from 1986 to 1988 and again from 2010 to 2019, along with Huey Lewis and the News bassist John Pierce, drummer Robert “Sput” Searight, and keyboardist Steve Maggiora. Rounding out the lineup will be keyboardist Dominique “Xavier” Taplin and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ham.
This is a rare lineup of Toto without a single member of the Porcaro family. Lukather didn’t address the absence of anybody by name, but his statement suggested that certain members weren’t up for a reunion. “At this moment, Joe and I are the only long-tenured members of the band that want to be on the road continuing to bring music to our multi-generational fan base,” he said. “I’ve spent almost four and a half decades of my life as the only original member who never missed a show or an album nurturing this legacy while enabling the music to continually exist in the live concert setting.”
A big reason that Toto can still draw a large crowd is the legacy of their 1982 LP Toto IV. That’s the one with “Toto” and “Rosanna” that won six Grammys, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Check out this video of the band playing “Africa” during a show at Japan’s Nippon Budokan on the 1982 tour.
This video shows an American band playing a song called “Africa” on the continent of Asia. In that same year, a British band called Asia scored a worldwide hit with “Heat of the Moment.” In 1983, Australia’s Men at Work saw their song “Down Under” battle for the peak position on the American Hot 100 with “Africa,” and Asia went to Asia to play at Budokan. Meanwhile, Swedish hard rockers Europe released their self-titled debut, and we won’t even get into everything that happened with Kansas, Boston, and Chicago.
Getting back to Toto, the only member from the 1982 “Africa” lineup still in the band is Steve Lukather. Drummer Jeff Porcaro died in 1992, bassist David Hungate retired in 2015, vocalist Bobby Kimball left the band in 2008 and has struggled with vocal issues in recent years, and Paich has health problems. The only lingering mystery is the absence of Steve Porcaro, but in a 2019 interview with the YouTube channel Rock History Music, he said he was ready for a break, especially after the legal issues with Jeff Porcaro’s widow that caused the band significant stress and legal fees.
“To be honest with you, a lot of this legal stuff had really taken the wind out of our sails,” he said. “It was so intense for so long. It just kind of wore on everybody. We’re at a point in our lives, most of us, where we’ve had it with high stress. We’re just looking to have some peace and have our careers go where they’re going to go gracefully. I never say never, but I need some time at home. I need to be in my studio.”
But if the band has proven anything during its long lifespan, it’s that the exact lineup doesn’t matter to most fans as long as “Toto” is written on the tickets, Steve Lukather is onstage, and “Africa” is in the set list.