Jazz fusion/pop-rockers Toto to perform at Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center
Steve Lukather remembers getting a reality check from his father when he first said he wanted to be a musician. Then he decided to create his own reality.
“I remember my dad saying ‘Hey kid, you’ve got a billion to one odds of making it in this business,’” Lukather recalled in a mid-May phone interview. “I’m like, ‘OK, it’s going to be me.’ I never even gave it another thought. I was like nine years old when I announced it. He (Lukather’s father) patted me on the head and said ‘Well, you go for it, kid.’ It was like in high school, there was never a time when any of us ever thought it wasn’t going to happen. We just knew this is our calling. This is going to happen for us, the sooner the better.”
The “any of us” included a pair of sibling classmates, Jeff and Steve Porcaro, and a good friend, David Paich, who along with Lukather, formed the core of their band, Toto, which they established in 1977 — two years after Lukather graduated from Grant High School in Van Nuys, California.
Toto will perform at 7:30 p.m. June 18 at the F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
By the time the members finished school, the musicians were already showing signs of defying the odds and making it in music. Drummer Jeff Porcaro had been playing in Steely Dan for nearly three years, while guitarist Lukather and keyboardist Paich were writing, touring and recording with Boz Scaggs.
Things only got better from there for Lukather. Not only did he enjoy major success in Toto with the Porcaro brothers, Paich, bassist David Hungate (replaced in 1982 by a third Porcaro brother, Mike) and singer Bobby Kimball during the late 1970s and early ‘80s, he became a top session player.
Lukather has appeared on more than 1,500 albums by a who’s who of music royalty, including being a major contributor to one of the biggest albums of all time, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
These days, Lukather not only has Toto, he is a member of former Beatle Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band — a big deal for the guitarist, who considers The Beatles his favorite band.
Lukather is covering all of that and more in an autobiography he expects will be out in early 2018.
“A lot of it is just really about the music,” he said of the autobiography. “I’m not writing some sex, drugs tell-all. It’s a tired story anyway. I mean, I do pepper it with a couple of really super funny stories, which involved a lot of people that are famous, that I’ve known since I was a kid, some crazy hijinks. But it’s also very informative about all the records I’ve done and who did what, who came up with the stuff, interesting stuff.”
By the time “Thriller” was released in 1982, Toto was well established. The group’s 1978 self-titled debut album spawned the hit single, “Hold The Line,” and went on to top 2 million copies sold in the United States alone.
A string of successful albums extended into the 1980s (with Toto hitting a peak when the 1982 album, “Toto IV,” became a triple platinum smash behind the hits “Rosanna,” “Africa” and “I Won’t Hold You Back”).
Toto stayed together with varying lineups until 2008, and then reconvened in 2010 for a European tour to raise money for Mike Porcaro, who was battling ALS disease, which took his life in 2015.
That 2010 tour, featuring Lukather, Paich, Joseph Williams (the group’s singer from 1986-89) and keyboardist Steve Porcaro was supposed to be a one-time reunion.
“We were just going to do one tour and that was going to be it,” Lukather said. “But we had so much fun and the reaction was so positive, we said ‘Well, do you want to do it again next year?’ So we sort of gently jumped back on the horse again, if you will, and it started to take on a whole new life and we were really enjoying playing together, so there was no reason not to do that.”
Toto (which also includes drummer Shannon Forrest) has been on an upswing ever since. In 2014, Toto released a concert DVD/CD set, “Live In Poland,” to considerable popularity worldwide, followed in 2015 by a well-received new studio album, “Toto XIV.” Last year, a vintage show, “Live at Montreux 1991,” was released on DVD.
Next year, Toto will reach the 40th anniversary of its debut album, and big plans are in the works for that occasion. For now, the band will remain busy, with a June headlining tour of the states, followed by shows in Europe and then an August-September run with Pat Benatar.
The current headlining shows are generous two-set, evening-with affairs.
“We’re going to do a great kick-ass set,” Lukather said. “We’re upgrading the set from the past couple of years. We’ve still got to play certain songs, of course, but as far as the deep cuts go, we’re adding about five or six things to the set to kind of freshen it up, a new opener and all that stuff. So we’re excited about it.”
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IF YOU GO
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 7:30 p.m. June 18
Additional information: Tickets range from $39 to $69 and are available through the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.