April 4, 2008

Toto, Live In Manila '08: My Concert Hangover

I just came back from watching the concert of one of my all-time favorite bands, Toto, held at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City (which isn't so far from where I live). And boy, it was one of the best concerts I've ever watched! Yes, I still have the Toto concert hangover. While composing this blog, their 1992 album Kingdom Of Desire is playing here on the background.

Toto already had a couple of concerts here in Manila years ago, and I missed them all. I was anticipating their concert this time, since I first heard the news a few months ago that they'll be back in town. This time I don't have any reason to miss this show. Thanks to a very good friend of ours, me and my drummer friend (and our manager's husband) Joel David were able to score tickets. There was traffic at the Araneta Center, and searching for a parking space was quite tough. Until finally we were able to spot a good parking space at around 8pm. We ran two blocks going to the venue, thinking that we might be late for the show (it says 8pm on the ticket). We were like kids who were eager to enter a theme park.

Of course, the show didn't start on time. We were seated at the Patron area, near the right side of the area where the sound engineers are stationed. We had enough time to settle down and buy something to eat. It was also a good time for me to approach the stage to take a closer look at Simon Phillips' drumkit.

Simon Phillips is one of my favorite drummers. I consider him as a huge influence on my playing, and he's one of those great drummers whom I want to emulate. I am privileged to have attended the Hall Of Fame drummer's Zildjian Day Manila drum clinic about three years ago. Approaching the stage, I recognized his familiar, classic Tama double-bass, multi-tom drum set-up. But this time, he is using the brand new Tama Starclassic Mirage acrylic drums. I took a much closer look, and there I saw also his new "Monarch" Signature snare drum. I took a few photos, then went back to my seat.

Show kicked off unexpectedly, with Simon opening the show with thunderous drum rolls, signaling the intro of Gypsy Train. This was followed by Caught In The Balance (my favorite track from their 1999 album Mindfields), and other songs which are mostly from their Simon Phillips-era albums. There were plenty of fellow musicians in the crowd, so this was a huge treat for us, knowing that Toto is a band composed of renowned, world-class musicians. So after every song, I kinda figured out who among the audience are musicians. We were the ones applauding enthusiastically after every musical stunt, while the casual spectators were caught unfamiliar with most of Toto's non-mainstream songs.

By the time Toto played their impromptu medley of hit love songs I'll Be Over You, I Won't Hold You Back, Lea, 99, and Georgy Porgy (and letting the crowd sing along with it), that's when the casual non-musician audience reacted the most. Guitarist/Vocalist Steve Lukather must have thought that it's funny, knowing that Filipinos are suckers for love songs. But it's still cool, because they rearranged a bit some of their classic songs, to give it a different yet refreshing flavor.

My favorite parts of the concert? I like how they ended the love song medley with the instrumental part of I'll Supply The Love. Don't Chain My Heart, Pamela, and Stop Loving You were well-done, and they made some twists at the opening of Rosanna. And of course I enjoyed Simon Phillips' drum solo, where in he soloed over the instrumental part of Hydra. Every musician had their moments to shine on stage. I was so amazed with every guitar solo Steve Lukather performed. He is a genius! Bassist Lee Sklar (who is sessioning for Mike Porcaro, due to the latter's hand injury) and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes had a good number of highlights and solo spots, and guitarist Tony Spinner and vocalist Bobby Kimball were impressive.

Not only was the performance mind-blowing. The sound quality was excellent! Toto's sound engineers have done a superb job. Having a great sound team and a quality sound sysem is a great compliment to how well Toto's musicians play and make their instruments sound good. Simon Phillips is known for having great ears for high-quality drum sounds. I'm still at awe with how huge and thunderous his Starclassic Mirage kit sounded. And his new Monarch snare drum sounded great at the venue. This special new drum is worth investigating.

Every good musician can pick up a few new things from a Toto concert. In my opinion, I think the best lesson, especially for young and aspiring musicians, is to value sound quality. Many kids these days tend to focus a lot on technique, speed, and all those hot licks and riffs. These may be nice too, of course. But many tend to neglect the idea of producing a quality sound. We may be able to play so many cool stuff with our instruments, but it won't be cool if it sounds poor. We should make an effort on not only to play better, but to sound better too. And if it sounds better, it makes us and our listeners feel better too.

After the show, I bought Steve Lukather's new solo album Ever Changing Times at a stand near the gate, which has Steve's autograph on the cd sleeve. I already had Simon's signature on my Starclassic snare drum, so it's nice to have Steve's as well. After that, we all went home, satisfied and with an added boost of inspiration.