While this quasi-incarnation of '70s rock act Toto definitely tries to supply the night, Judge Bill Gibron is finding it very hard to supply the critical love.
Our review of Toto: Falling In Between Live (Blu-Ray), published December 17th, 2009, is also available.
Can You Tell Me Where I Might Find the Hydra?
When is a name act no longer representative of their creative standing? Put another way, when does the revolving door aspect of membership, long since segmented by ego, differences, death, and nostalgia, let the latest incarnation of an act actually fill in for the original's former glory? Is Journey still Journey without Steve Perry on vocals? Can Styx continue to "sail away" when founding father and key songwriter Dennis DeYoung is performance persona non grata? Those are the questions that arise when one sees the odd amalgamation of musicians who call themselves Toto today. Back in 1977 a collection of seasoned session players decided to parlay their talents and produce their own debut album of material. Eighteen-odd LPs (!) and several substantial shifts in personnel later, only two original members remain. For the Parisian audience in attendance for this 2006 French concert, the years and the unfamiliar faces don't matter. For them, every anthem is a fiery fist-pumper, each ballad an emotional roller coaster through one band's elongated career.
Generic and skillfully programmed, Falling In Between Live is the efficiency expert's idea of rock and roll excitement. Solos are planned out carefully, all hand signs and gestures jerryrigged to provide maximized musical flash. Yet the overall effect is decidedly pedestrian, like watching a Ramada Inn cover act revisiting Toto's extensive catalog. It's passive and overly polished. You do have to give this new configuration credit, however. They bury the recognizable numbers inside a set list that really plays up their recent release (2006's Falling in Between). For an act that's long since fallen off the U.S. pop culture radar, it's a ballsy move. Of course, the Europeans present just eat it all up. They clearly keep tabs on the group. For those interested, here are the songs celebrated:
• "Falling in Between"—from the 2006 album
Falling in Between
Once you get past the novelty of seeing some members of Toto onstage, once the waves of '80s wistfulness finish washing over you, after the first five or six numbers play out, a strange revelation strikes you—Toto is nothing more than Boston without Tom Scholz guitar signatures. It's all blueprint stadium pomp and non-adventurous sonic circumstances. If aliens came down from space and wanted to see a by-the-numbers illustration of MOR/AOR, this would be it. It's not that Toto can't turn it out when they want to—several of their more current selections really soar among the French faithful. But unless you've followed the band and all its many incarnations, you'll be twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the radio-friendly hits. As the only original members left, Steve Lukather and Bobby Kimball are front and center. Even when songs not sung by them ("Africa") appear, they keep their onstage presence known. This is especially true of de facto leader Luke. He acts as if he's carrying the group's legacy all alone. You've got to give Kimball credit as well. These high-range melodies can be murder on an old man's pipes (he's 61), and yet he still sounds great.
There are some obvious omissions though. Lukather has been quoted as saying he absolutely hates the 1979 hit "99," thus the band avoids it here. Hydra also loses its two additional singles ("St. George and the Dragon," "All Us Boys"). There is an overreliance on the more modern material, clearly indicating that this version of Toto is not resting on its pre-MTV laurels alone. As you'd expect from seasoned pros, the playing is perfunctorily pristine. Director Blue Leach can't keep the camera still long enough to capture any real band chemistry or dynamic, but the audience reaction shots definitely add to the excitement. The video image is awesome, by the way, a gorgeous 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen showcase that's colorful, atmospheric, and rich with detail. On the sound side, we are treated to a fantastic DTS presentation, fairly immersive Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, and a 2.0 stereo configuration. All three deliver channel-challenging audio. As for added content, there is an interview featurette that gives the band a chance to express and defend themselves. It is insightful, but rather plain. In fact, that's a good way to describe the overall experience of Falling In Between Live. On the one hand, it's a wonderful document of a decent three-decades-old rock act. On the other, the songs—and the sound all remain the same.
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