"It's all in the cheese" is how Todd Rundgren addressed the thousands of concert goers who came out to Riverside Park in downtown Oshkosh, where he was warmly received. It was a perfect evening for an outdoor concert. Oshkosh is putting on a series of fifteen concerts this summer celebrating fifteen years of - well, I'm not sure - maybe "not becoming a slum."
I drove up from Chicago just to attend this show. Although it was a long grueling drive, I went anyway because my parents use to live in Oshkosh in the 1980s, so I knew my way around. Plus there are tons of hotels nearby, so I was able to get a room easily.
The opening act was a San Francisco combo called Those Darn Accordions -- a very appropriate name. The group consisted of a drummer, a bassist, 3 gorgeous female accordionists, a male lead accordionist/lead singer and an 85 year old accordionist/vocalist known as "Clyde." They were extremely entertaining with their original material, traditional polkas with a twist (did I just make a pun?), and covers of golden chestnuts such as "Pump it Up," "Teenage Wasteland," and "We're an Accordion Band." But it was Clyde who stole the show with his rousing renditions of Rod Stewart's "If You Want My Body and You Think I'm Sexy" and Jimi Hendrix's "Fire." They struck me as a bit too much of a novelty act. And I doubt you'll ever see an episode of "Behind the Music" made about them for VH-1. Yet, they were very talented.
Todd hit the stage a little after 8:30. It took the soundman about 3 or 4 songs to get the mix right, so the first three songs was a hodgepodge of instruments and voices fading in and out -- typical for an outdoor show. Eventually, the trio was able to construct an enormous wall of sound -- a very powerful wall.
A couple of standouts: "Open My Eyes" -- that, it did. "Hammer in My Heart" -- I was never a big fan of this song, but it works surprisingly well in a power trio. "Secret Society" -- a favorite of mine. Todd only played guitar during the solos on this one, yet the bass & drums were able to pull off a perfect accompaniment while Todd was singing and doing his sign language. "Worldwide Epiphany" soared like a space shuttle liftoff. They also performed an instrumental that I did not recognize, but it showcased the virtuosity of each musician. Todd had all the guitar gods covered on this one. He even managed to slip in the main riff from Procol Harum's "Whiskey Train."
TR's voice was a little scratchy at times, but the man has an amazing command of that instrument.
There were quite a few senior citizens in attendance as well. They seemed to enjoy the band thoroughly. Perhaps they were all Della Reese fans and were Touched by Todd's hairstyle.
A couple of feet in front of the sound board was a dude who balanced a full glass of beer on his head for a whole minute, while swirling around and dancing. He received a round of applause from everyone around him. Oshkosh people know how to get drunk the right way!
A lot of guitar picks flew into the audience at the end of the show and the people up front just dove for them. Todd stood at the lip of the stage signing quite a few autographs. Oshkosh loves Todd!
At the end of the evening, about 20 people were hanging around the tour bus parked right off stage-left hoping to get a glimpse or an autograph on a record jacket. Kasim came out and charmed the socks off of everyone. One woman asked him what kind of surgery he had on his foot. He said: "Surgery? -- no, I injured my foot while running with the bulls in Pantaloma -- I got trampled on by a Spaniard." Everyone laughed. He honored everyone's request for an autograph, especially a 12 year old girl who was with her parents. She had some things she wanted him to sign. He called her "sweetheart" and signed anything she wanted. He left her beaming. He's a very funny and charming man. Charming in a sort of European way.
I've never seen a tour bus up that close before. Jeez it's big. It's blue with an Hawaiian paradise graphic painted on the side. I just wonder how he got that beastly contraption over to the mainland from Hawaii.