LEWISTON – The last of this season’s Tuesday evening concerts at Artpark was a showcase for artists whose biggest impact on popular music came during the 1970s and ’80s – Michael McDonald and Toto. It’s a felicitous pairing in many ways but mostly because these folks have intermingled in studios and on stages many times over the decades.
The original members of Toto made their livelihoods playing on other people’s sessions or backing artists as part of a touring group before they created their first album, and McDonald first gained public notice by singing memorable backup harmonies on a couple of Steely Dan albums before helping revive the Doobie Brothers’ presence on the charts. Members of Toto joined McDonald on some of those Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers sessions while he, in turn, sang backup on Toto’s “I’ll Be Over You” in addition to other session comminglings.
So Tuesday night’s gig had all the trappings of musical brotherhood even as the artists wandered through their own specific “hit” catalogs. Toto mined hits from their debut album (“Hold the Line” and “Georgy Porgy”) and dug into their fourth disc for “Rosanna” and “Africa.” Guitarist Steve Lukather related an origin story for “99” that hinted that title referred to “the lost position” in the Kama Sutra before leading into the tune and displayed a wide tone and stinging attack throughout the set.
Toto also proved to be one of those rare ‘boomer bands” where most of the musicians onstage were there at the creation of the group. Joining Lukather were keyboard players David Paich and Steve Porcaro along with bassist David Hungate.
Drummer Shannon Forrest was the newbie, and singer Joseph Williams was an intermittent member of the group who joined the ensemble later in their timeline.
McDonald had joined Toto’s program to reprise his work on their “I’ll Be Over You,” but he was the putative/de facto headliner for the show due to a more consistent and wide-ranging list of hit songs. The audience may have sung along with Toto on “Rosanna,” but they consistently joined in the choruses to McDonald classics like “I Keep Forgetting”, “Minute By Minute” and “What a Fool Believes.”
The singer’s medley of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing” from his album of Motown covers was another hit with the crowd.
Bassist Tommy Sims and vocalist Drea Rhenee’ were featured prominently during the course of McDonald’s portion of the evening as were saxophonist Brandon Fields and keyboard master Pat Coil (solo artists in their own rights) while guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle and drummer Dan Needham provided leads and a pulse respectively.
To wind things up for what seemed initially like a real short set, members from Toto joined McDonald for an encore, lengthening the evening to a more satisfactory conclusion.