An evening in Tulsa

Review by Bob Birdwell (Switch to

Of the elements that give character to an event, the venue is second only to the performer. The historic Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa is one of those places where time seems to have stopped. One of the Cain's employees told me it was built in 1929, but the stone placard in the face of the building says 1924. It is billed as “the house Bob built.” (That is Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.) Inside the worn out slat wood floors – among the rest of the worn out things – beg you to imagine the house’s previous life as a honky-tonk dance hall. I can't imagine who has played here in the past. I know Utopia played there in 1981. Anyway, its the kind of place where people can flick their cigarette ashes on the floor and slam shots while sitting around 1950's vintage diner tables. Its a nostalgic place in a city with deep musical roots.

The opening act – presumably a local kid – was Dustin Pittsley. Brandishing only an acoustic guitar and backed with a single keyboard player, he ran through several tunes including a phenomenal rendition of Hendrix’ “Hey Joe.” I hope this kid gets a break somewhere along the line, he was sensational!

After Pittsley left the stage the house returned to the rumble of conversations (some of which never ceased the entire evening). 20 minutes, or so, later, Todd casually walks on stage. It took several seconds before anyone noticed. Todd then announced “ I am here to entertain you.”

He began the show with Lysistrata, a beautiful acoustic guitar version of “I don’t want to Tie You Down,” and “Love of the Common Man.” His voice seemed well rested and was superb! He continued on with “Cliché” and “Black and White,” after which an idiot walked up to the stage asking for an autograph. In somewhat of a scolding manner, Todd told her “not during the show.” She just sort of stood there for a while at stared at him. This was the first of three morons who would try this during the evening. You would think the second one would have learned from the first, but I can't imagine what amount of cranial matter was lacking in the third one.

At this point, Todd moves to the piano and begins playing “It wouldn't have made in difference.” This was the first sour chord of the night and Todd blames the incessant jabbering of the crowd. He mentioned the jabbering several times early in the show, but it never seemed to stop. At one point he kiddingly said the next song would be a drunk test. If they talked through this one they were really drunk. They did. Throughout the evening I often heard people shushing others. Todd was clearly distracted, and a little cranky about it, but he eventually seemed to blow it off and have some fun with it.

The rest of the set list goes like this:

Song of the Viking
Compassion (beautiful!)(this one was also the drunk test)
Free Male and 21
Kindness (I think…the one from Second Wind)
Bang the Drum (ukulele version)

(Back to the guitar)

Hide You Love Away (drunk audience participation number) Falling (another Beatles tune) Beloved Infidel There Goes My Inspiration

(the MP3 backed bosa nova session begins)

I Saw the Light Influenza Can we Still be Friends I Want You

(Back to the guitar)

Love in Action (powerful and awesome!) One World


Hello its Me (other than a few missed chords on the piano, this was excellent) A Dream Goes on Forever

(show over)

I think that the venue here tacitly gives permission to talk while someone is performing. (ghosts from it's honky tonk days, perhaps) I, too, thought it was distracting and disrespectful. Like the professional he is though, Todd recovered from the initial distraction of it all and seemed to have a good time. As for the usual dose of the world according to Rundgren, he took occasion to comment on the war and the orange level terrorist alert (he even asked the crowd if one of the idiot autograph seekers looked like a terrorist.) One comment in particular was about defending those who were protesting the seems that some have labeled them un-American.

All in all it was a very enjoyable evening. The Cain's Ballroom is a must see, but I don't think it works well for an act like Todd has on the road right now. (too much jabberin ya know). By the way, Tulsa is a great city to visit (probably nice to live in too). My wife and I had an enjoyable stay in a stunningly beautiful downtown area. Most of all we experienced an unforgettable evening with Todd Rundgren. It will be a nice memory. He is a rare artist, don’t miss an opportunity to see him.

Other reviews for Miscellaneous Dates 2003
3/31/2003 - Cain's Ballroom - Tulsa, OK

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