CD/DVD Review: Toto – 35th Anniversary Tour: Live in Poland

CD/DVD Review: Toto – 35th Anniversary Tour: Live in Poland
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Toto - 35th Anniversary Tour:
Live in Poland
Europe got its fill of Toto in 2013, as the neo-progressive soft-rock idealists celebrated their 35th anniversary with a glorious 29-city tour of the continent that included a stop in Lodz, Poland, where a packed house greeted them with unabashed joy and exuberance.

Toto returned the favor, putting on a spectacular two-hour performance that was joyous, poignant and entirely free of soul-sucking cynicism, traipsing through a life-affirming set list of expected hits and a few forgotten treasures that prove deserving of reassessment. 

Vividly filmed for a DVD release that comes with a nicely edited, engaging, career-spanning set of interviews, "35th Anniversary Tour: Live in Poland" is also available on Blu-ray, as a two-CD set and a deluxe edition from Eagle Rock Entertainment, and it is a vivid spectacle of sound and vision. With superb camera work that alights on Steve Lukather's breathtaking, uniquely engrossing guitar solos, focuses the spotlight on Joseph Williams' commanding vocals and dynamic stage presence, and glows with warmth, "35th Anniversary Tour: Live in Poland" is a dazzling, intoxicating showcase of Toto's ability to connect with its fans on a level that's not exactly intimate, but it is powerful.

Superb camera work captures the sterling interplay of Toto's core members, these veteran session musicians, whose contributions are found on an astonishing 5,000 albums, ably balancing progressive-rock ambition with jazz fusion and R&B influences, and transitioning to lush pop soundscapes without missing a beat. Theatrical at times, as they revel in the keyboard bombast of the Yes-like "St. George and the Dragon," where keyboardists David Paich and Steve Pocaro set off a glorious aural display, Toto also eases comfortably into the tropical pop longing of "Africa" with grace, injects energy and passion into "Rosanna" and builds dramatic tension in another crowd favorite, "Hold the Line."

Whether its the languid Spanish guitar Lukather expertly negotiates on "The Muse" or the proggy time changes so deftly navigated throughout a stirring version of "Better World," Toto can still gently break hearts with aching, affecting renditions of "I'll Be Over You" and "99" while managing to maintain a seriousness about their craft. And the watery "Hydra," with its light funk grooves, prove that prog and R&B can coexist.

Both respected for their musicianship and derided for their overly sentimental pop excesses, Toto has always left itself open to criticism that's both fair and just, and yet, they continue down the road as they always have, taking the paths they want to take and not giving one jot for those who find them cloying or insincere. Though completely over the top and so slickly produced that it comes off as glitzy as Vegas, this cinematic extravaganza could win over new converts.
– Peter Lindblad

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