Watch Toto highlights!
Watch Michael sing!
Preview by Joshua Maloni
There's no denying Artpark & Company booked its most ambitious "Tuesdays in the Park" concert season ever this year. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acts Daryl Hall & John Oates, Heart, Aretha Franklin and Beatles drummer Ringo Starr were just some of the acts that took the stage during the course of the three-month series.
It's fitting, then, that the man who first took "Tuesdays" to award-winning, record-crowd-size success closes its most impressive season.
Michael McDonald will co-headline the final "Tuesdays in the Park" concert on Aug. 26. The singer with the distinctive baritone voice was the top draw in 2005 - the first year Artpark & Company went all-out to bring top talent to Lewiston - and drew more than 12,000 for a second appearance in 2008.
When informed of his popularity at the venue, McDonald said, "That would make me feel fantastic, obviously."
"Artpark is a beautiful venue, for one thing," he noted in a recent phone interview. "To be up there playing on stage and have Niagara Falls right behind you there is a pretty amazing experience."
"The audiences in New York state are always fantastic," McDonald added. "There's so many great venues in New York: all the way down from the city all the way up to Buffalo."
McDonald has collaborated with a vast number of musicians, but he's best known for singing alongside Steely Dan, fronting the Doobie Bros. for five years, and then achieving a successful solo career. He registered hits in four decades with songs such as "What a Fool Believes," "Taking It to the Streets" "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)," "Sweet Freedom" and a cover of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Subsequently, he's found favor with audiences spanning in age from grandparents to teens. (The slightly older fans grew up with his music, while the junior set recently caught his comedic performance with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.)
When asked what it is about his voice, or his music, that resonates with audiences, McDonald simply said, "Gosh, honestly, I don't know."
"I feel fortunate in that sense," he said. "My band and I, we love going out and playing - and nobody's more surprised than we are that we're still doing it. We really, truly enjoy it.
"I think the music that's from the '70s, it kind of has, I don't know, it seems to have had a universal appeal over the years. It was a great time to grow up and be a young musician. I feel very fortunate having come up in that decade."
"We've been having a ball," McDonald added. "We've got one of the best bands that we've probably ever had over the years."
"We're lucky enough to have a band of this caliber, and we still have audiences coming to see us," he said. "It's quite a privilege for us."
McDonald, on his own, has proven capable of moving Artpark audiences to sing, dance and celebrate. This time around, though, Artpark & Company has paired him with co-headliner Toto.
"Michael McDonald did exceptionally well his two previous appearances here," President George Osborne said. "He is an excellent artist and has a substantial following in this market. However, I did not expect him to draw as well this year as he did in those two previous appearances, and that is why the package with McDonald and Toto was very appealing.
"To my knowledge, Toto has never played Artpark and we are always looking for acts to make their Artpark debut. Combining Michael McDonald and Toto on the same bill will give us a special night unlike any of the other concerts we have presented this summer.
"I am excited about having Michael McDonald back at Artpark and welcoming with him Toto. It should be a lot of fun and a great way to bring our 2014 season to a close. Just give us a warm, sunny evening and all will be well."
An unusually high rainfall has somewhat hampered Artpark attendance this summer. That said, a double-bill of this magnitude should draw fans regardless of the weather.
Of Toto, McDonald said, "I've known those guys forever. I remember I met Steve Porcaro and Jeff Porcaro when they were both teenagers out in L.A. We all kind of came up together at the same time in L.A. We'd play clubs together. There were sessions, at the time, together. I've always had great respect for those guys as musicians."
The Porcaros, David Paich and Steve Lukather took Toto to the top of the charts at the same time McDonald found fame.
"We go way back," he said. "We're old friends, so it's great fun to be on the road together. And those guys are a riot.
"But they're also one of the best bands. We played a gig with them a few years back, and I hadn't heard them in a long time - I hadn't seem them in a long time. I was amazed at how many great records that they had had. I thought of Toto; I thought of 'Hold the Line' and 'Africa.' But there's so many other songs that they had huge hits with over the years. ... They made some of the all-time great, classic rock records through the '80s and '90s."
McDonald is unlike many performers in that when he performs he can draw from many different musical genres, including R&B, rock, jazz, pop and soul.
"We've always just kind of focused on playing and putting the music over as well as we possibly can live," he said. "It's a whole 'nother experience to play it live than being in the studio."
"We do a little bit of everything," McDonald promised. "I try to draw from as many of my own experiences, musically, as I've been lucky enough to have. So, we'll do a little bit of the stuff I did with the Doobies, solo stuff, some of the Motown stuff. We'll be adding some songs, hopefully, this tour that we haven't done in a while - a couple songs that we've kind of pulled out from the past. And then, hopefully, at some point we'll be doing some of the new stuff that we're recording now."
McDonald is working on a new album in Nashville. He said it's a collection of remastered demos he initially sought to catalog and was later convinced to make public.
He said it's "certainly a record I would've never done if I had time to think about it. ... It's a much different record than I've ever done. ... It's a little bit of a lot of things."
Toto will perform in Lewiston Aug. 26. (photo by Darek Kawka)
Preview by Joshua Maloni
Artpark fans got a taste of Steve "Luke" Lukather's style of music when he performed June 24 with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band. The singer returns with his own band, Toto, to close out the 2014 "Tuesdays in the Park" concert series Aug. 26.
"We're just having a blast," Luke said in a recent phone interview. "I'm looking across the stage at guys I've known 42 years - since we were little kids in school. The four of us: Me and Paich, Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams have known each other since we were young kids. And we still act like little kids! That's the joy of being a musician: You never really have to grow up."
In April, Toto released "35th Anniversary Tour - Live In Poland" on CD, DVD and Blu-ray. To the band's surprise, the product was an instant success in the U.S. and across the globe.
"We're totally blown away, man," Luke said. "We did this thing. We're really popular overseas in Japan and all over Europe, but the U.S. and the U.K. has always been a little bit of an Achilles heel. We do OK, but on a smaller scale.
"All of a sudden, this thing's just blowing up out of nowhere. We entered the charts at No. 1 or No. 2. You know, it's crazy. Every country in the world - the best reviews we've ever gotten.
"There was no hype to it. ... We were just like, 'Is this some kind of April Fool's joke?' ... Because it was all so organically done. We just did this thing and put it out."
One thing Luke stresses - and one of the reasons he's called upon to perform with the music industry's best acts - is authenticity. He and his bandmates sing their own songs, play their own instruments, and leave the theatrics and robotics to others.
Of the anniversary album, Luke said, "We didn't fix it. It's really well produced, but it's the real thing. There's no auto-tuning and fixing - in fact, I make a big point of leaving the warts in to prove the point."
Toto hit it big in the late '70s and early '80s with the albums "Toto" and "Toto IV," and the songs "Hold the Line," "I Won't Hold You Back," "Rosanna" and "Africa."
The band was made up of well-trained studio musicians who, ultimately, just wanted to play music. Toto's reluctance to conform to one particular style - or to a particular fashion - made the group the target of some rock critics.
"We really got this real big head start (performing with other acts in studio)," Luke said. "When our first album came out, so did the Sex Pistols. We were the antithesis of that. With the name Toto - which I always hated, but now I've just learned to go, 'It is what it is, man.' It's been good to me. ... (But) they picked us as a band to put against a punk rock band. That's like having chocolate-covered anchovies. They just don't mix.
"Like, why would you put us against that? It makes no sense. It's like playing basketball with a 3-year-old. We're completely different animals.
"We took a bunch of (trash) for that. And the thing is, we developed a thick skin and a great sense of humor about it. And we survived. No matter how much they tried to kill us, and beat us up, and tell everybody how much we suck, we just kept getting up after every punch and saying, 'Thank you. May we have another?'
"Between death, drug abuse, losing people to crazy (things), and members changing, the key guys that I grew up with are standing on the stage with me again. And I think that we're playing and singing better than ever."
Luke acknowledged it's unusual for him to perform twice at the same venue in the same summer, but said he's looking forward to the second Artpark show. He said longtime Toto fans will be pleased with the performance, and new fans will be surprised with what they hear.
"We're very aware that the casual fan wants to hear the hits," he said. "Some of them forget the songs we did were hits, because they didn't realize it was us. I've sung a lot of the hits. David Paich sung 'Africa.' Joseph Williams has (sung hits).
"People come to the show and they go, 'I forgot they did that song.' We get that all the time, because we played different kinds of styles. We're not just a band that has one particular thing.
"Now early on, that was used against us. Now I see that as a plus, being able to jump ships stylistically."
Toto is co-headlining with the soulful Michael McDonald.
"Michael goes way back (with us)," Luke said. "I remember in high school hearing about Michael. And Michael was in Steely Dan with Jeff (Porcaro) in like 1973, 1974. At one point, Michael was asked to be in Toto, before the original guy. He had just joined the Doobie Brothers and done 'Takin' It to the Streets.' "
"We're really close friends," Luke said. "I played on Michael's first solo album; I played on 'I Keep Forgettin' and a bunch of hits with him. He sang on some of our records."
Luke noted, "It really made sense to do it, and it was very successful (in 2013)."
The Michael McDonald-Toto concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Artpark is located at 450 S. Fourth St. For more information, or for tickets, visit www.artpark.net.