Memorable Night at Berlin Spandau Zitadelle: Toto’s “Dogz of Oz” Tour Finale

The moody weather in Berlin did not seem to dissuade large crowds of Toto fans, mostly 45+ in age, from eventually filling up the front of the stage as well as the general crowd areas, although not to the brink of the inside courtyard area of the Berlin Spandau Zitadelle, one of the best-preserved Renaissance military fortresses in Europe. Built from 1559 to 1594 atop a medieval fort on an island near the meeting of the Havel and Spree rivers, it was designed to protect the town of Spandau, which is now part of Berlin. In recent years, it has been used as a museum and has become a popular tourist spot. Furthermore, the inner courtyard of the Citadel has served as an open-air concert venue in the summertime since 2005… and now in 2024, also for the final German performance of the fiftieth anniversary “Dogz of Oz” tour.

Photo (c) Eus Driessen, archive Maxazine

The “Toto Sword,” in its simplest reference to an arming sword from the 14th century, projected with the band name on the silvery silk roll behind the stage, seemed an apt fit for the 16th-century medieval fortress hosting the grand show.

The support band “The Effect,” starring a charismatic Trevor Lukather (son of Toto’s Steve Lukather) on guitar, Nic Collins (son of Phil Collins) on drums and an energetic (and later daring) Emmett Stang as lead vocal, opened at around 19:30 with six songs. Although somewhat more rock/metal than Toto, the style of music seemed to hit off with the crowds who were stuffing themselves with food stall snacks, hoping to finish in time before the main gig. Their excitement amplified when Emmett took his shirt off midway through their set!

After a short rearranging of the stage and instrument change (notably the drum set), Toto entered the stage fairly unassumingly and straightforwardly, starting with their first number, “Girl Goodbye,” from their 1978 debut album to distinctive cheers and notable sing-alongs from the crowd. The tour line-up includes Steve Lukather (‘The Luke’), the only standing member of Toto since the beginning, on guitar and lead vocal, along with Joseph Williams on lead vocal, with most of the rest of the band on backing vocals through the rest of the gig; on instruments were Warren Ham (sax & tom-toms/percussion), Greg Phillinganes (lead keyboard), Dennis Atlas (second keys, very new to the band and replacing previous keyboardist and vocalist Steve Maggiora who instead performed with The Effect), Shannon Forrest back on drums, and last but not least, Steve’s oldest friend, John Pierce on bass.

“Hold the Line” (also 1978) was followed by strong cheers from the crowd for this massive single back in the day. Bobby Kimball sang this brilliantly back then, but for this tour, most of the singing was performed by Joseph (who was also the lead singer on many of the hits throughout the band’s life), who walked around on stage with a portable mic enjoying the benefit of not having to play or carry around any instrument other than the occasional few jingles with a tambourine. Steve moved to his mic stand for most of the songs for some choruses, while as stated before, the rest had mics above their instruments for backing vocals, although I could not quite make out if Shannon (drums) had a voice mic as well.

“99,” a minor hit also from 1978, followed by Steve debunking the belief that he hated the song, stating that they haven’t played it on tour for a long time. This was followed by a hit from later years, “Pamela,” to huge cheers from the crowd. Some more minor hits followed on both sides of a keyboard solo by Greg, including elements of other tunes from their debut album. A side note: depending on how one defines a “hit,” arguably some of the songs in the setlist were lesser “hits” back in the day than others which were clear blockbusters.

“I’ll Be Over You” and “Stop Loving You,” the latter is a favourite from the setlist, followed, to the great enjoyment of the crowd. Toto’s famous cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” was followed by a snare-rich drum solo from Shannon, and more hits from later years.

Finally (i.e., unusually late into the gig), a band introduction followed, with Steve introducing all of the band members and Joseph introducing Steve. “Home of the Brave” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” (a Beatles cover) preceded the final two songs of the show: “Rosanna” and “Africa.” Even though the original “Rosanna” was sung by several of the band members on lead vocals at the time, this time around it was only Joseph on verse with Steve and the rest of the band on chorus as backing vocals. “Africa,” the band’s biggest hit, ended the show with crowd involvement utilizing improvised phrases and answers from the crowd, at which point The Effect’s Trevor and Emmett (who put his shirt back on in the meantime) rejoined the stage with bubbling energy to finish off the last part of the song with the rest of the band, driven by the Lukather father-and-son duo side by side. “I bless the rains down in Africa” was more apt to the previous song, “Rosanna,” during which a medium drizzle fell onto the crowd but was gone by the time “Africa” started.

A final bow from the members of Toto and The Effect all altogether was a fine tribute to a good and straightforward show, ending with German punctuality at 22:00 without an encore.

As for the rest, the sound system was a bit flat in the mids up close (front of the stage), but this improved further away (e.g., in the general area), though the volume also decreased, maybe a bit too low, even right in front of the repeater speakers halfway to the back. All of these characteristics are typical of open-air venue music acoustics (or rather, the lack thereof). I also think people standing far at the back (even though the venue’s open area was not super big) would have appreciated a big screen to the left or right of the stage, which would have duplicated the performance or maybe even zoomed in on particular musicians, e.g., Joseph or Shannon when he was performing his drum solo.

Former keyboardist David Paich was the lead singer in “Africa” for most of the song, and chorus in “Rosanna,” but he hasn’t toured with the band since the 2022 Europe tour in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, the current lead singers did a good job of performing these songs instead, however, this satisfactory feat was possibly blown out of proportion by the reappearance of the support band during the performance of “Africa,” jumping on stage and performing with maybe too much energy, considering the song. In other words, joining the band on stage and adding energy would have maybe been apt had a different, more suitable song receptive to additional energy been chosen as the closing song (or even better, as an encore).

Joseph and Steve notably had trouble reaching the high notes in certain songs. This was not so pronounced with Steve, but when Joseph attempted the most important musical hook in the chorus of “Pamela” (very early in the setlist, mind you), he gapped out the “heal this time” key change part of the phrase, leaving it to the backing vocals to reach the tone albeit significantly softer. This was very apparent, and I could feel the dismay in the crowd to some extent, Joseph looking down to the ground in dismay each time this happened (in contrast to looking fairly upwards each time he sings) visually confirmed that he knew he was not up to it. Sadly, age gets to even the best of us…

All in all, it was a fun and straightforward concert in an interesting setting, aptly closing off the Germany part of the 2024 Dogz of Oz tour. The musicians’ prowess did not disappoint, and Luke’s magic on guitar was as strong as ever – and that’s a long time, 47 years. Toto can still hold up with the best of bands out there still rocking after so many years and turn a rainy Berlin evening into something special those who attended will remember for a long time.

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