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In Atlanta, Georgia, USA, conductor's baton met guitar in a truly awe-inspiring performance by Toto with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

The ease with which these professionals integrated their playing would suggest to many that the two very-different groups of musicians just hopped up on stage and just started playing together. However, we had a chance to go behind the scenes and watch the pain-staking, fine tuning at the mixing board as well as the Symphony's rehearsal of Toto's more difficult charts.

We met the band early the morning of the gig and sat down and had a chat with Luke and Dave about the entire Toto vs. Symphony concept.

David: "It started back on the first album. It was really a collective effort. I can't say that it was my idea, and I don't think anyone else can either. We would all say and be in agreement on questions like, 'should we use an orchestra here, or should we use synths?' "

Read on in our big Steve Lukather/David Paich Interview

Because many of the charts from the recent Summer Tour setlists had to be drawn up, David had been working tirlessly to get things finished. After our interview, he sat down at the hotel piano and played some of the variations for Luke and conductor Matt Catingub.

Shortly thereafter, the band began the painstaking tasks of integrating their own sound with the orchestra, as well as attempting to maintain the volume restrictions imposed by the venue.

The sound engineers at the mixing board had their work cut out for them. Given that this was Toto's "dry run" show with a Symphony, there was a lot of fine-tuning that went into their work. Each microphone had to be adjusted to exactly the correct level to get the best blend of Toto's sound and the Orchestra's filler. Additionally, the volume had to be tested and retested to make sure it stayed below the requisite 87 db. Pain-staking take after take was performed by the band. Sometimes the guitar would be too loud; that would be adjusted. The the drums would be too loud. Clearly the entire band was going to have to adjust their way of playing -- not only by listening to all 90 members of the Symphony, but also being careful not to play too hard on touch-sensitive instruments, like Simon's drums and David's keys. At the same time, the Orchestra's mics had to be adjusted with plexi-glass blocks to prevent any sound bleeding so that all of the mix could be fine-turned in as-expected Toto-perfection.



Matt Cantingub went through all of the most difficult charts that the Symphony would have to play later in the evening, including elements of Better World, Africa, Girl Goodbye, and the Night of the Proms Overture. As Luke and Dave stressed in their interview, Toto's music has many specifically timed notes, and a conductor must be very familiar with the music in order to keep the Symphony with the beat. Luckily, Matt had conducted the Honolulu Symphony Pops in May with Toto; additionally, Matt has been a Toto fan for his entire life! After the Symphony was finished its rehearsal, we had a chance to sit down with Matt and find out how he was introduced to the Toto scene and first had the idea of playing the Honolulu Symphony Pops with Toto back in May 04.

Matt: "I went to high school with the Porcaros brothers. I've known them since I was a kid. I remember when the Porcaros and Paich were just a garage band. My brother was in that band! In a sense, I saw the very first incarnation of Toto."

But the connection doesn't end there! Read on in our exclusive Matt Catingub Interview

Chastain Park Amphitheatre was the largest venue that Toto played in the United States in recent years, with a capacity of over 5000. As most amphitheatres are situated, seating started high up on a hill, slowly descending towards the stage which was built ground level in the center. Immediately against the stage was an area of tables numbering around 50, which gave way to the stadium like seating that rose to the back of the amphitheatre for about 100 yards. As is the purpose of an amphitheatre, the sound floated from the stage area to the back of the venue with excellent clarity.

When the show finally began, and the eerie deep bass of Girl Goodbye began, it was obvious that the crowd was in for quite a treat.


Girl Goodbye was executed flawlessly, with Luke ripping a great solo and Bobby in top form. Unfortunately after the intro, the Orchestra didn't have much else to do here except play a few filler notes for the band. Afraid of Love followed Girl Goodbye, with another great performance by Luke. It was a real treat to hear I'll Be Over You back in the setlist, with a lovely string ensemble backup by the Orchestra, as well as - as expected - a fantastic solo by Luke.


Africa followed I'll Be Over You, and - as in many shows in America - the audience really picked up on the "hit." It was at this point that the audience really began to get an appreciation for the band and were definitely cheering and having a lot more fun.

The Orchestra had a lot to do during Africa - mirroring all of David's synths for the entire song, including the Synth Brass and the kalimba. The instrumental break was fun to hear with the album-recorded flutes and kalimba combo coming from the Orchestra.

Luke performed one of the best solos I've ever heard him play, taking a bit more of a front seat in the post-Africa improvisation with Mike Porcaro, and he got a huge cheer from the audience. David's keyboard solo followed.

Following Luke's hilarious story of Dave's second-place finish to Bobby Kimball in the quest for a lovely young lady on the original Toto Debut Tour that inspired the song, Good For You was played. Bobby was absolutely on fire during this tune, and it really turned out to be a great live tune.

The funky chords of Georgy Porgy followed, with the crowd singing the refrain along with the band, and then the Orchestra played in concert with the band on the opening bars of Stop Loving You, followed by a great vocal performance by Tony Spinner.

Next came Home of the Brave, and the Orchestra played the background strings beginning with Dave's vocals. Rather than just playing rhythm to Luke's guitar solo, because the Orchestra handled the strings, David Paich had a chance to do a bit more behind the keys, so we heard a slight variation to the traditional Home of the Brave break, with Dave even playing some air-guitar and really getting a groovy dance behind the keys.


The band and Orchestra took a short break, and returned with the opening notes of the Night of the Proms Overture, creatively blending elements of Dune, Home of the Brave, Rosanna, and many other aspects of Toto's large back catalogue. The Overture slowly transformed into the Child's Anthem. Luke's opening riff from Only the Children began shortly thereafter, with a fantastic vocal performance by Bobby.

Only the Children was one of the newer charts that David had played back in the hotel earlier that morning for Luke and Matt (pictured above), and it was great to be able to hear Dave's piano from earlier transformed into a great blend of string, oboe, flute, and horns.


Pamela followed Only the Children, with another fantastic vocal by Bobby. And then one of the highlights of the evening for the Orchestra - Better World - began its eerie broken chords. Steve "Dr." Lu, Toto's new backing keyboardist, and Paich were hard at work in the beginning syncing the piano, harps, and strings. And the Orchestra was working just as hard to keep up.

As Dave and Luke stated in their interview, Better World is one of Toto's far more progressive pieces, and the Orchestra was working to keep up on this one. Luke coaxed the audience into singing the "whoa-whoa-whoas" before his solo, and the crowd was more than willing to oblige him.

Luke's incredible acoustic solo followed, with a verse and refrain from The Road Goes On. The Orchestra took a break for the Medley that included Angel Don't Cry, These Chains, Dave's Gone Skiing, Mushanga - with some phunky steel drums from Dave -, and Carmen.

Simon's absolutely phenomenal drum solo followed, and commentary afterwards from the crowd made it clear that all were impressed. The "Another Chance" version of I Won't Hold You Back started in next, with the Orchestra handling the string ensemble. Mike's groovy base was fantastic, and Luke's vocals were spot on.

Rosanna followed, with the Orchestra shining during the keyboard solo. The Orchestra fought to keep up with Paich's quick playing, and they performed their part admirably. Luke's solo was once again phenomenal. The jazzy finish had the crowd on its feet, followed by a five minute screaming and cheering fest when the band left the stage to finally return for an encore of Hold the Line.

Get an overview over the complete Set List and Orchestra Arrangements


Afterwards the audience was still extremely enthusiastic about the gig.
"Nothing could come close to what I saw and heard in Atlanta... nothing.", said Donna from Missisippi. Alfredo even travelled all the way from Venezuela to attend this event. He especially loved the symphonic Child's Anthem - "A moment that I'll never forget... Music from heaven." Read on for more in-depth Concert Reviews

Despite having to work with huge time constraints, Toto's unwaivering desire to obtain perfection controlled the show and treated the crowd to a phenomenal combination of two very different worlds of music. As the Luke and Dave both stressed, the band is constantly looking for new ways to grow musically and challenge themselves.

Here's hoping that these challenges happen often in the future.

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