Not in “˜Africa’ anymore: Yes and Toto

The Majestic Theatre allowed audience members to step back into an earlier era of rock music in a stunning, elaborate venue while hosting bands Yes and Toto on Wednesday evening. Toto took the stage at 7:30 p.m. and played a set lasting an hour and a half that spanned their 38 year career.

The stage was set for Toto with nine talented musicians scattered across the stage””two percussionists, Keith Carlock on a traditional drum kit and Lenny Castro behind an array of hand drums with other percussion instruments arrayed behind him. Founding member David Paich manned a keyboard on the left side of the stage, with Steve Porcaro facing him on the stage on a synthesizer. The center of the stage was filled by bassist David Hungate, singer Joseph Williams and guitarist Steve Lukather. Lukather was energetic and traveled across the stage throughout the evening, clad in a long-sleeved shirt and patchwork pants made with pale rose, white, lavender and peach pants with patterns across them which ended at the ankles of dark blue shoes.

Colors came through in his playing as well, as Lukather played shining guitar solos throughout the evening. This concert exhibited a lost art of rock music today: the extended guitar solo. Lukather, making a nod back to inspirations Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, took advantage of several moments during the Toto set during which he was allowed time to play solos. The energy in the venue rose during crowd favorite, “Rosanna,” which inspired much of the theatre to sing. Toto ended their extended set with well-known track, “Africa,” which featured a drum solo from Castro on the hand drums. The Toto set showed that the band has maintained their energy throughout the years, and they have an amazing command over layers.

Yes took the stage close to 9:40 p.m., opening their set with a dedication to recently deceased founding bassist Chris Squire. Squire was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia earlier this year, which prompted the band to continue their tour with bassist Billy Sherwood. Yes’ song “Onward,” from their ninth studio album Tormato, accompanied the tribute to Squire, ending with the lyric, “Onward through the night of my life!” The song was penned by Squire in 1978. Yes opened with, “Don’t Kill the Whale,” another song from their Tormato record, which was brought to life by the airy vocal harmonies between Sherwood and singer Jon Davidson. Sherwood shared a similar commanding bass tone with Squire, made up of biting highs and a deep tone. The second track played by the band, titled, “Tempus Fugit,” seemed to welcome the audience with the lyrics, “It’s so good to be near you and the feeling you give me makes me want to be with you from the moment you tell me yes!” Guitarist Steve Howe provided his fantastic skills as a multi-instrumentalists, playing several guitars throughout the evening as well as a laud (an instrument similar to the mandolin) on their sixth track for the evening, crowd favorite, “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Whereas Toto had several moments during their set dedicated to decadent guitar solos from Lukather, Yes balanced their set more evenly through solo moments for the various musicians on stage. Yes’ set also seemed to focus strongly on themes of being together and with the audience, featuring lyrics such as those from “Tempus Fugit,” as well as lyrics from, “I’ve Seen All Good People,” which encourage the listener not to, “surround yourself with yourself.” One of the musical highlights of the evening was the bridge within, “Siberian Khatru,” which featured a beautiful passage that made the theatre and audience feel suspended, and stood out among the great energy of their set. The show ended with two well-known songs from Yes’ 1983 album, “90125” and 1971 album, “Fragile,” respectively””the tracks, “Owner of the Lonely Heart,” and, “Roundabout.” These songs brought the energy of the theatre to a head, with, “Roundabout,” especially showcasing the fantastic abilities of the band. Drummer Alan White provided stellar drumming from behind his kit, while keyboardist Geoff Downes provided flowing melodies to link the songs together. Following an energetic, shining performance of these final songs, the band left the stage to a standing ovation from the audience.

Yes returned the stage not a moment later for an encore, “Starship Trooper,” with Davidson singing, “As I see a new day in me, I can also show it you and you may follow.” Surely, the audience already had, welcomed back to a stunning age of progressive rock, if only for the evening.