Todd Rundgren - Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA

Review by Mike B. (Switch to

I have to start by saying that this part of "Slum-erville", Davis Square, at least, has been spruced up in the last decade. Tree-lined streets, cobblestoned sidewalks, lined with cafes, bistros and trendy stores and antique shops lead into this busy area. Parking is at a premium, but I managed to find a spot about a five minute walk to the theater.

Took a couple of photos of the theater from the outside, with Todd's name sandwiched among the movies - this theater houses multiple film rooms, as well as the 800+ seat main room. Crossing the street, what do I see but a truck with "WIZARD" on the side, snapped another pic!

This theater has been semi-restored - polished wood floors, brass-and-glass doors in the upstairs area leading to the balcony seating, but inside the concert room the seats are old (except for some newer replacements), the leg room scarce, and the light turquoise and orange paint is flaking off the ceiling. Once the lights go down and the show starts, though, the sound is excellent. Not sure of the age of this building, but it wouldn't surprise me if this theater was used for vaudeville way-back-when. This is new venue for Todd, and for 99% of the audience, too.

Gary Jules opened the show with a fairly short set of original songs. He mentioned that at a radio station interview that day a dj had labeled him a ëfolk singer' - "I didn't know I was a folk singer!" he joked. Almost apologetic for being the opener for Todd, he still received a lot of applause after each song.

It was just after 9pm when Todd hit the stage, wearing that same brown(ish) suit - you have to wonder if he has a trunk full of identical clothes, or just keeps wearing the same ones day after day after dayÖ

Boston has always been a "Todd town", but this is the closest he has been since doing the free "Power Lunch" show a few years ago. Todd was immediately at ease with the audience, joking and kidding around. When the inevitable guitar string broke, Todd called for someone to change it for him, and the blond-top guitar was passed into the audience! Sans strap, though, as Todd mentioned the sweat-soaked item would bring top money on an Ebay auction - so he must occasionally do a "Todd Rundgren" search there, too!

The night's song list was pretty much the same as previous shows, starting on the black Takamine, then moving to piano, back to guitar, then piano, then guitar for Born To Synthesize, followed by the MP3 set, then One World as the closer. Back for three encores - The Wheel and What's Going On on guitar, then Dream Goes On Forever on piano.

One "new" song, after You've Got to Hide, Todd went into his "country music" thing, to do I've Just Seen a Face, then, telling everyone to sing along, started singing something he called "Endless Prairie"! When no one sang along, he joked "Don't you know it? It's Warren Breen's best known song! Well, maybe #2, after that song about horses!" Eventually he segued into the end of "Face".

Throughout the show, Todd's voice was great. A little rougher than earlier in the tour, but at the same time he seemed more comfortable in what he could do. There were still flubs in a few songs - more often on guitar than piano - but he recovered from the usual one in "Yo Boston, It's Me". There were a few equipment problems, such as the accessory table ("They warned me it would wobble if I moved it!"), and the sound man ("louder!Louder!LOUDER!!"), but Todd just made a joke of the problems.

There were a few songs in the set list that I hadn't heard at the Mohegan Sun show - Black & White was great, and I liked it better than the fuzzed-acoustic Hammer In My Heart; Beloved Infidel - never heard this acoustic before; Free, Male & 21 - why?? Those who know this song cringe when they hear it, those who don't know it wonder why/what it is. Admittedly the piano part must be easy to play since it has so many discordant chords, mistakes are undetectable. Why not Parallel Lines, or even The Smell of Money, if an Up Against It song is necessary? Both are songs he used to do solo on the piano with some regularity back in the 80s.

The general consensus, even from those who had not seen/heard the "Tiki" stuff before, is that the karaoke part of the show was the weakest part. Nothing wrong with the song choices, but the vague song endings, and delivery, with the over-acted shakers, etc. is better suited for a lounge act. Cut this section to 2 songs, and play guitar along with the songs, Todd, and we'd be happy. How about doing Just One Victory this way? It was a concert staple (even with the old cart machine) for solo shows for a long time.

Was it worth it? You bet! Would I go again? You bet! If this show had been announced at the same time as the Mohegan Sun show, I would have skipped that one and still be as happy now. And if he hits the area again later this year to support the "new CD", I'll be there, too!

Other reviews for Miscellaneous Dates 2003
7/31/2003 - Somerville Theatre - Somerville, MA

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