Confucius Rescues A Deflicted Guitar

Review by Bob Fahrner (Switch to

It was a packed House of Blues that greeted Todd Rundgren and the Liars on Easter eve. This was my first visit to the House of Blues and I was impressed by the good sight lines from almost everywhere in the club. Although, I wish they would have invested in a ceiling exhaust fan, as it sure was hot in there.

The concert tickets stated "No Cameras." House of Blues enforced this rule by using the honor system:
"Do you have a camera?"
"Okay, go on through."

The show started at 9:00 with the LED stage lights twinkling away over the opening pre-recorded strains of "Truth." Todd emerged from backstage center sporting a photographic negative of his usual hair style and began singing. The rest of the band members then took their respective positions in a box like configuration that resembled one row of "Hollywood Squares." Jesse and Kasim doubled on keyboards that folded out and retracted like wall mounted ironing boards. Different colors and patterns of light were projected on screens behind each musician. All of this was encased in a bending scaffold like structure that contained the lighting system and other gizmos. Todd summed it up best when he said "Welcome to our tabernacle." I'm looking forward to seeing what this guy can do with Nano technology !

All of the new material sounded great - much more powerful live than on the CD. "Truth," "Sweet" and "Past" found Todd and the band in top voice. The older material (and by "old" I mean stuff from the past dozen years) suffered from a few false starts and miscues, but still managed to sound great nevertheless. "I Hate My Frickin' ISP" lived up to its status as a rock anthem. "Temporary Sanity" and "Fascist Christ" showcased Todd's impeccable command of hip-hop. "Love Science," "Hit Me Like A Train" and "Want Of A Nail" brought out Todd's Philadelphia soul roots. I haven't seen him do that much fancy hoofin' since the "Nearly Human" tour. This man can sure cut a rug.

For the first six songs, Todd was getting no signal from his guitar. So, he put it back on the rack and told his technician to fix it. But when it came time to play the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," something had to be done. Apparently, Jesse, who was dressed like Confucius, was able to fix it by tapping a stylus on some sort of contraption mounted on the scaffolding next to Todd. At least, that's what it looked like from where I was standing. Who knows? Maybe the stylus was really a pencil and the contraption was really a clipboard where the band members could leave notes to themselves to pick up their dry cleaning, while the guitar technician was behind the screen banging on Todd's amplifier with a ball peen hammer.

Halfway through the show, the band members left the stage to change costumes, leaving Todd with just his guitar to play "Beloved Infidel" and "Lunatic Fringe." Nature called, and I had to take a break. When I returned, Todd left the stage and the band members emerged dressed like a bunch of extras on the set of "I'm Gonna Git Ya, Sukka." They launched into a couple of funk tunes. A notable standout was a cover of Archie Bell and the Drells' classic "Tighten Up." If you were to close your eyes, you could swear you were listening to the Replacements at their drunkest. It was amazing to watch them make mistakes and then try to recover from them by making even bigger mistakes.

The show lasted a very generous two and a half hours. For the first encore, Todd did a serviceable version of "Hello, It's Me." For the second encore, Todd resurrected "Just One Victory" and had more people waving and clapping along than what you would see at a Neil Diamond concert.

The last song of the evening was "Worldwide Epiphany." This always sounds great live and tonight was no exception. On this song, Todd demonstrated that he can scream longer and louder than any rock singer in the business. Near the end of the song, someone threw a pair of Easter Bunny ears on the stage. Todd put them on, finished the song and, you guessed it, bunny hopped off the stage.

Other reviews for Todd Rundgren and the Liars 2004
4/10/2004 - House of Blues Chicago - Chicago, IL

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