Todd Rundgren & the Liars in Chicago (4/11/04)

Review by John Sabal (Switch to

Yes! It is a great time to be a Todd fan. His best album in 15 years, and a live show that is one half very heavy and another half smooth & soulful. The light show is amazing. The setlist unexpected and uncompromising. Getting there late, i made it to the center floor in time for "Fascist Christ". It was nice to hear this song today, as i commenced to rockin-out, fist pumping and chanting along, reacting to some "old time religion". "Unloved Children" kept the grooving pace, as noticed someone in front of me sporting a Nearly Human '89 tour shirt.

"Temporary Sanity" was extremely moving (emotionally and foot stompingly) and was my first highlight. Todd's voice was really intense in the beautiful middle section of this song. It felt good to clean out my tear ducts a little, as i savored seeing one of my role models in top form, singing one of his strongest melodies.

This is one of the best sounding venues in Chicago, and the mix was dialed in solidly as i moved around to different vantage points. Kasim's Warwick bass was thumping, and growling quite nicely. Praire's drums were also quite full and powerful, meshing naturally with some loops on a few tunes. Beats were fat on the new tune "Liar" which just absolutely ripped! Jesse's guitar solo was a highlight of this version, and then the rest of the song pummeled everything in it's path.

Having missed the first 3 songs of the night, this was my first taste hearing anything from the new album. After the "God Said > Liar" combo i new the record was gonna be special, so off to the the merch booth i went. The album cover picture of Todd as an egg-chomping bunny will forever remind me of this incredible easter sunday show.

TR solo "Beloved Infidel" was lush, as his awesome sea foam green strat-like guitar sounded rich and nicely flanged in it's isolation from the the rest of the band. But by the end of the song, "Foamy" was slightly out of tune. I can take or leave TR's "Lunatic Fringe". Good song and all, but this intonation-challenged, chord-flubbed version had me wishing for anything but Cochrane covers. He played it last time he was in town. Come on Todd, if your gonna pay tribute to Canadians, play some tunes by "The Pursuit of Happiness". (or "12 Rods", .....they're from Minnesota...close enough.)

the costume change seemed pretty goofy at first, but i guess those pastel colors tied into the easter imagery-trip already going on, along with the whole garish H.O.B. vibe. Coupled with the Liar's limp "funk medley" of Kool & the Gang's "Funky Stuff", and A. Bell & the Drell's "Tighten / Loosen Up" this was a lame point of the show. Weak grooves in Vaudeville Miami Vice gear ?!? ....uh-oh.

But all was forgiven as next, they launched into a huge chunk of very smooth, well orchestrated, and emotional songs. This "second set" brought the Philly-style R&B vibe i was waiting for. "Soul Brother" had a nice end jam that could have been from Utopia's "Oblivion" era , and "Sweet" made me feel shades of P-Funk's communal grooåve. This tune could / should perfectly jam into No World Order's "Time Stood Still". Try that on your next TR mix CD's.

By the time "Past" floated through the air, i was starting to realize just how many great songs were on the new recording. Songs that revealed themselves on the first listen.

One of the greatest Todd / Tubes collaborations, "Feel It" had shades of Marvin Gaye, the artist that Vince and Laurie Welnick originally wanted to sing this tune. "Just One Victory" was a very nice bust-out.

There were some nice design ideas with the moving / fold-over keyboards, and the innovative light show. No wonder everyone in the band is wearing shades on stage...., those lights were intense and way closer to the performers than the average lighting rig.

It's great to see him with a band again. Easily my favorite show since summer 87.

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4/11/2004 - House of Blues Chicago - Chicago, IL

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