House of Blues, West Hollywood

Monday, June 12
By Marc Pollack
Throwing caution to the winds, chameleon-like Todd Rundgren discarded the heavy computer and synthesizer-tinged material employed on his last few releases in favor of a stripped-down rock approach.

Despite public indifference, this rock veteran is still pitching curves after 25 years.

A multimedia maven and longtime computer and video enthusiast, Rundgren has nearly single-handedly heralded the many interactive opportunities available to entertainers. So it was ironic that he took the stage sans tech, with guitar in hand.

True, the cult icon _ who had been calling himself TR-i during his interactive phase _ delivered songs from his interactive projects ``No World Order'' and the upcoming but delayed ``The Individualist'' (HR 6/13). But he chose to alter the numbers to fit his five-piece rock group format.

At the best, this meant that the songs were given new life _ pumped by the real energy only instruments can provide. At the worst, songs like the new ``Tables Will Turn'' came across as soft, lacking direction, missing key fills, background vocals and computer-generated sounds that on record help bolster the sometimes weaker material.

Aside from the new album, Rundgren's choice of material was for the most part obscure and eccentric _ tunes gleaned from the artist's illustrious repertoire. A treat for the faithful was a blues medley of ``Mystified'' and ``Broke Down and Busted.'' He also resurrected ``No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator,'' with its blistering guitar breaks.

Overall, the idea for scaling down the multimedia angle was there but the rough spots hadn't been smoothed yet, this being the beginning of the tour. The band just didn't seem ready to hit the road. In fact, Rundgren jokingly threatened to fire two members after a particularily sloppy delivery.

This band _ Jesse Gresse on guitar, Larry Tagg on bass, Prairie Prince on drums and John Ferenzik on keyboards and guitar _ seemed almost bush compared with some of the others Rundgren has put together in his career.

Hearing Rundgren play guitar (he played more here than he has on any tour in recent history) was a genuine treat _ his licks and leads are still among the best. But ultimately this show was guilty, in Rundgren's words, of being ``a half-assed job.''

Copyright © 1995
The Hollywood Reporter
Used with permission