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POP MUSIC REVIEW : A Rip-Roaring Tribute to Toto's Jeff Porcaro

December 16, 1992|DON HECKMAN

It would be nice to think that Jeff Porcaro was watching, from somewhere, the all-star tribute to his memory at the Universal Amphitheatre on Monday.

The Toto drummer, who died in August of an apparent heart attack, would surely have been delighted by the lineup of past associates who turned out for a rip-roaring celebration of his remarkable career.

In typical Toto fashion, the production was technically flawless, with the current edition of the band serving both as the headlining act and as a super back-up group for such guest stars as Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, Don Henley, Donald Fagen, David Crosby, Eddie Van Halen and surprise guest George Harrison.

Just returned from a tour of Europe and the Far East scheduled prior to Porcaro's death, Toto sounded in fine form. Drummer Simon Phillips, in the unenviable role of having to replace Porcaro, brought a somewhat heavier rock 'n' roll orientation to a collection of tunes ranging from earlier Toto ("Georgie Porgie") to selections from a recent album released only in Europe.

Among the other high points were McDonald's reading of the still-potent Doobie Brothers number, "Takin' It to the Streets," a group sing on Toto's "Rosanna," Henley's oddly anachronistic (but nonetheless convincing) rendering of "Come Rain or Come Shine" and a soaring guitar duet between Toto's Steve Lukather and Van Halen.

The emotional climax of the 3 1/2-hour nonstop program, however, came with a collective performance of "With a Little Help From My Friends." With Henley, Scaggs, McDonald, Crosby and Lukather alternating lines from the Joe Cocker arrangement, and Harrison hovering in the background like an \o7 eminence grise\f7 from the rock past, it can only be described as a moment to remember.

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