Review: Falling in Between - DVD
In February of 2006 Toto embarked on their massive Falling In Between world tour which took them all over Europe, Japan, the United States, and many other remote parts of the globe. The tour finally came to an end in August of 2007 after playing more than 120 shows. I was fortunate enough to have seen Toto for the first time when they stopped by the Loudoun Summer Music Fest, in Ashburn, Virginia during the first leg of that tour, and it was amazing. But as great as that show was, experiencing this new DVD was even better.
Falling In Between Live was filmed in front of a wildly enthusiastic sellout crowd at Le Zenith in Paris, France on March 26th, 2007 during the second leg of Toto's Falling In Between world tour. Just as David Hasselhoff is still huge in Germany, Toto is still huge in France - and the rest of Europe and Asia for that matter. For reasons that still escape me, Toto's popularity has declined drastically in the U.S. ever since their Grammy Award winning Toto IV album dominated the charts in the early 80's.
Critics often refer to Toto's music as too slick and overly polished. So stick with your punk albums if you can't appreciate "polished" music. That critique also doesn't hold as much water when these guys hit the concert stage. As this video will attest, Toto's music really comes alive with a much heavier and looser vibe when they play it live.
Toto went through several key personnel changes during the 80's and 90', most notably firing founding lead singer Bobby Kimball in 1984, after the Toto IV tour, and then losing founding drummer Jeff Porcaro in 1992, when he died suddenly of an allergic reaction to a pesticide he was using in his garden. He was only 38. The band soldiered on, touring regularly, releasing a new album every few years, taking in and spitting out three new lead vocalists, and eventually inviting Bobby Kimball back after a 16-year hiatus to commemorate the band's 20th anniversary.
After not paying a whole lot of attention to the band during those years, my interest was rekindled again in 1999 with the release of their excellent Mindfields and Livefields albums. 2003's awesome 25th Anniversary: Live In Amsterdam concert DVD only added fuel to the fire and made me a full-fledged Toto fan once again. That DVD received one of my most favorable reviews ever, but I am here to testify that Falling In Between Live is even better.
The DVD begins with some brief backstage footage as the band is only minutes from taking the stage. As the African-themed intro music fills the arena, the band members take their positions behind a large curtain that is draped around the front of the stage. I love this method of opening a concert, as it creates a dramatic affect when the curtain is suddenly dropped, the light show kicks into gear, and the music starts. It looked especially cool here.
Toto opens the show with a couple of the more rockin' tracks from the Falling In Between album, the title track and "King Of The World". I appreciate the fact that Toto are playing a lot of the new material, four songs in all, and not just playing a tribute to the old classics. I though that Falling In Between was the best album these guys have done since Toto IV. Yeah, you heard me right.
After an excellent version of their funky pop hit "Pamela", going back to 1988's The Seventh One, they dig deep into the gorgeous Falling In Between track, "Bottom Of Your Soul". This dramatic number is very reminiscent of their #1 hit "Africa", and it is also one of the best songs they have done since then.
From there, you are treated to most of the classic numbers fans have come to expect like, "Hold The Line", "I'll Supply The Love", "Africa", and "Rosanna", which featured a new jazzy intro section, but you are also treated to a few unexpected surprises. Fans of what is probably the least known Toto album, Kingdom Of Desire, are sure to be pleased by the three selections that are dusted off for this show. That album could easily have easily been a Steve Lukather solo album, as it was the heaviest and most straight forward rock album the band has ever done, with Luke handling all of the lead vocals.
Toto bassist Mike Porcaro was unable to make the second leg of the Falling In Between tour due to a hand injury, so Luke recruited his old friend, and bass guitar legend, Leland Sklar to fill in for the rest of the tour. You will certainly not mistake Sklar for Porcaro up on stage, as he looks more like old St. Nick than your typical rock star, but his bass playing was very impressive. Although founding member David Paich still writes and plays with the band in the recording studio, he no longer tours with Toto. Greg Phillinganes has been with the band since 2005, and this veteran keyboardist is certainly a worthy compliment to Paich.
I was impressed with how well 61-year old Bobby Kimball's singing was on this tour. Many of these Toto songs have some dangerously high notes that could have easily embarrassed a lesser man, but Kimball handled them with ease. I have already stated my admiration for Steve Lukather's guitar heroics in many other reviews of his work, and he certainly lives up to the billing on this DVD. You not only get a six minute guitar solo, where he plays everything from eclectic jazz to screaming metal, but he really gets to strut his stuff on such guitar-heavy tracks as "Falling In Between", "Kingdom Of Desire", and "Gypsy Train".
As much as I enjoyed the excellent performance by Toto, the most impressive thing about this DVD was the remarkable production quality. This is easily one of the best produced concert DVDs I have in my collection - right up there with the Eagles Farewell I Tour, Roger Waters In The Flesh Live, Concert For George, and David Gilmour Remember That Night. Not only do you get to choose between two first rate Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio mixes, but you are also treated to one of the best DTS 5.1 surround tracks my system has ever had the pleasure of pumping out.
The picture is delivered via a stunningly impressive anamorphic widescreen presentation that expertly captures the band's colorful light show. The camera work deserves special accolades as well. Rarely are you subjected to the hyper-fast camera angle changes that seem to be the standard these days, and the director was familiar enough with the music to focus on the right musicians at all the right times.
Toto are a group of musicians-musicians, so there were fret-burning and cymbal-crashing close-ups aplenty, but the thing I appreciated the most were the abundance of slow, sweeping, long-range shots that really allow you to soak in the entire stage show. The director makes you feel like you are right there in the crowd.
The bonus features consist of interviews with each of the Toto band members. Some of them were quite interactive, with Luke demonstrating each of the effects pedals in his pedal board, and Philips and Phillinganes each demonstrating how they play some of the key parts in a few of the songs. A 10-page color booklet full of tour photos is also included.
In the same way that I will rarely go to see a band live on the same tour more than once, I also rarely watch a new concert DVD more than just once or twice, before I put it away for a few months to let my anticipation build up again. It's an entirely different experience than listening to a new album. Every now and then, a new concert DVD will come along and inspire you to want to watch it again and again, without tiring of it. Toto's Falling In Between Live is one of those special DVDs.
Reviewed by Paul M. Roy - May 2008