Angry, Aloof Todd Snubs Enthusiastic Phoenix Crowd

Review by Michael Harkins (Switch to

Set List

Love of the Common Man
I Don't Want To Tie You Down
Black & White
Beloved Infidel
Lunatic Fringe
Song of the Viking
Free Man and 21
It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference
Bang the Drum
There Goes My Inspiration
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
I've Just Seen a Face (w/ Endless Prairie)
MP3 (With A Twist Set)
I Saw the Light
Can We Still Be Friends
I Want You
One World
Hello, It's Me
A Dream Goes On Forever
Wheel of Karma
I Want You

What a night… To begin with, we passed by the poorly lit (hidden away) Marquee Theatre several times before we could find the venue. This 1000 seat venue is located near Arizona State University (in Tempe, AZ). When we finally found the place 25 minutes after the show was scheduled to start, we were directed to a remote parking area located way down a winding road... which was a considerable distance (and a steep uphill climb) from the theater. At this point we still didn't know if Todd had already taken the stage (or not).

Fortunately, after a considerable search of (my fiancé) Karen's purse… we were informed (much to our relief) that Todd wasn't onstage yet.

The venue looked like it was 70-75% full (700-750 fans in attendance) Secure in our 3rd row center seats, my brother (Anthony), Karen and I (with bottles of Heinekens and water in hand), Todd ventured onstage to a thunderous, heartfelt greeting from his Arizona faithful. He broke into Lysistrata, which was particularly fitting given America's current quagmire in Iraq. From the opening stains of the song, it was readily apparent that something was really bothering TR. Finally after his 2nd or 3rd number he mentioned that he was "on the rag tonight"… but that he wasn't going to go into details about it. Todd finally mentioned that he was upset because there were no mic cables ready for his sound check. "Hey Todd, that is really unfortunate, but did you ever hear of the adage that "the show must go on"? A consummate professional, with almost 40 years of concert experience, has undoubtedly encountered many technical difficulties (Lord knows I have witnessed them a number of times at TR and Utopia concerts… when they clearly had nothing to do with the venue and were solely Todd's fault "can you say "The Todd Pod Tour"). We didn't turn on him and get ugly because of his technical or logistical challenges. As a matter of fact (in each instance), Todd's fans remained upbeat, warm, compassionate and fully supportive.

Over the course of the 2-hour show, Todd's frustration evolved into contempt for a variety of things that came into his focus or mindset. Early in the show, unsuspecting fans handed him gifts and personal TR mementos that clearly meant a lot to them. He not only rejected graciously accepting them, he proceeded to insult these innocent fans who lovingly offered these gestures of affection and admiration to Todd, only to have him turn them into the object of his contempt and ridicule. One poor starstruck young women who sweetly handed him a picture (from when she first met him at the age of 15), was dismissed with a smirk and the comment "oh great… there's probably an arrest warrant waiting for me after the show because of this". The girl sitting in the front row was horrified (and her father clearly even more so) because of his mean-spirited comment.

Later in the show he made a series of contemptuous comments "fortunately I will be on a plane tomorrow, so I won't have to stay here any longer" and "this crowd is further evidence of the dumbing down of America". He made a number of other comments throughout the show that made it apparent that he didn't want to be there and reflected that he had contempt for this audience and that felt that he was superior to them. Also, his guitar playing was really sloppy most of the night.

Concert Highlights - (yes, there were actually some performance highlights) including:

I Don't Want To Tie You Down (his voice and overall performance were excellent) Lunatic Fringe (perfectly his angry, frustrated demeanor this evening) Compassion (IMO – his best performance of the night) It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference (his piano songs were generally executed much better than his guitar numbers) One World (The alcohol was finally kicking in as evidenced by his explosive playing and the temporary lift in his attitude"

After The Show – a group of 20-30 fans waited to meet him (despite the way the show went), my group included. We waited for almost an hour, only to discover that he decided to abruptly leave the venue (despite being informed that a group of his fans were still waiting outside for him). I spoke with someone who was backstage after the show (he had met with Todd a number of times after shows in the past). He said, "Todd acted like a complete prick… that he was extremely nasty and insulting to just about everyone who was backstage after the concert".

I really felt sorry for a fan who attended this concert on behalf of his father (who is serving time in jail). This young man (in his late teens) told us that his father's favorite music artist is TR and that "Healing" is his father's all-time favorite album. The sole reason he attended this show was to get a "Healing" LP signed for his dad. He looked absolutely devastated after he was told that Todd had left the venue. I can only imagine the conversation he had (or will have) with his dad about the show and what happened afterwards.

The security guard who had informed us that Todd was still backstage (and updated us later when Todd left the venue) mentioned that everyone who worked at the Marquee Theatre was floored by Todd's attitude. He said that they deal with a lot of star performers at this venue and that by far, Todd was among the most difficult they have ever had to deal with. He said Todd acted like a Prima Donna from the moment he arrived and that he treated the people who worked there like dirt throughout the night.

Todd's Growing Dilemma

Todd's eroding fan base certainly wasn't well served on Thursday night. This was only the second TR show that my brother Anthony has ever attended, and he was mortified at Todd's attitude and lack of professionalism during and after the show. He brought up a great point, he said, "how many performing artists would be willing to forgo a general sense of pride and professional performances standards, while allowing themselves to continue to perform live if they routinely made that many mistakes on their instruments?"

Todd seems to have identified two live performance formulas that his rabid fan-base and (relative) industry prominence (or lack thereof) affords him… leveraging these two proven money making commodities to enable him to maintain his lifestyle:

1) A wide-ranging (virtual blank-slate) acceptance from his rabid, core fan-base… a dynamic that he exploits without much consideration (if any) for the quality or freshness of his effort, i.e. recycled solo tour shows and unrehearsed private concerts. If he is in a bad mood and it affects his show (or even worse) takes it out on his fans, some of his loyal minions will readily forgive his insulting (at times disdainful) performances as though it is simply part of what it takes to be a true Todd Rundgren fan. "Todd is eccentric", "These are some of the things that I love most about Todd; his sarcastic wit, anti-establishment views and caustic attitude". This reflects the ongoing rationalization that a select group of TR diehards attributes to this embarrassing behavior.

2) Oldies tours… considering his standing amongst "old school" star music performers, musicians and industry insiders, his reputation has enabled him to plug into "Ringo's All-Starr tours" and "A Walk Down Abbey Road" with very little advance preparation and the opportunity to take some nights off (if he feels like it) buy just dialing in a "just going through the motions" kind of performance on any given night.

How long can he continue to have these episodes? One thing is certain, the venues he plays are increasingly getting smaller (and drawing less fans) each time he tours. Also, his ticket prices (these days) are among the lowest for established recording artists in the US.

TR clearly doesn't seem to care if he kills his "Golden Goose" – like an abused and neglected spouse, his forgiving but increasingly weary "core" fan base/patrons are deciding (in growing numbers) that his callousness and indifference has worn out its welcome.

I have been a diehard Todd Rundgren fan since 1973 (when I was 13)... I own virtually everything he has ever released or has been written about him on LP, CD, VHS, DVD and in print. I have an extensive Nazz/TR and Utopia memorabilia collection. I have seen Todd/Utopia perform live more than 60 times all over the US and even in Tokyo. Todd's showing this past Thursday night in Tempe, AZ was appalling. He should be ashamed of his boorish behavior and substandard performance… it is completely inexcusable. His "tired" act is really wearing thin for this long-time TR patron and fan.

"I wonder just how many eggs are in the golden goose"

Michael Harkins - "Hark"

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11/13/2003 - Marquee Theater - Tempe, AZ

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