Boston review

Review by Mike Birch (Switch to

Leaving a domestic squabble behind, I hit the highway for Boston as soon as I could after work. As I cranked up 'Liars' on the CD player, I smiled at the lines of cars in the crawl-and-stall rush hour traffic heading north, the opposite direction. It was a cool spring late afternoon, the sky was blue with fluffy clouds resembling supine Rubinesque bodies, and I was heading for a Todd show!

I zipped right into the city, and soon found the door for the Roxy (hard to spot, with just the club name on a small blue awning above the door). As it was already 6:15 I expected at least 30-40 people waiting, but instead there were just a handful of folks waiting inside the lobby. I was able to sell my extra ticket within 5 minutes - as this was a general admission show, quite a few people had not purchased tickets yet. More people started showing up soon, and the usual conversations about past Todd shows started.

Eventually, the club's staff made us go outside and wait on the sidewalk - they weren't expecting the die-hard TR fans to show up so early, evidently! At 7 the doors were opened, and we all filed in, getting glow-in-the dark wristbands (to match the glow-in-the-dark serving trays the waitresses carried!) The Roxy is an old playhouse-style theater, with marble stairs leading up to the main floor, and a balcony running around 3 sides of the main room, providing seats for those who wanted them. Traces of the old grandeur are still evident, although mostly obscured by light trusses and big speakers as this is a dance club most nights.

I've been close to the stage for a few Todd shows - off to one side, first row of people for the With a Twist tour, and 3 rows back for the NWO-Pod tour - but this was the first time I was almost stage-center next to the stage. There's no question that who you are with, talking to, and who is near you can make a big difference in how you enjoy a concert. I was surrounded by the 'Faithful', and only during the pre-encore pause was there an 'interloper' - a guy trying to push his way to the front to grab souvenirs.

The lights went down soon after 8pm, and the recorded strains of 'Truth' started, the blue LED-lit backdrops started in their dancing pattern, and Todd appeared in full brocade robe to the cheers of the audience. Prairie Price next appeared, synching in on the drums with the taped sounds. Kasim, Jesse and John came out and started up the live music on cue for the second verse.

As the band started 'Buffalo Grass', Todd disappeared momentarily, reappearing without the robe, revealing a sleeveless black shirt with red ruffled plaquet. The shirt was a little short, revealing glimpses of his belly - Todd has lost some weight since last year! Todd picked up "Foamy", the sea-green guitar for the second lead in this song, Jesse had done the first lead.

Next up was 'Mammon' featuring a killer guitar lead from Jesse, then Todd donned Foamy again for Fascist Christ, playing it so hard that it was way out-of-tune by the end of the song, causing him to switch to "Blackie" for 'I Hate My Frickin' ISP'. A lot of people don't like this song, for some reason - maybe they like their internet provider, or have never had to deal with slow dial-ups and hangups with AOL!

Next up was 'Unloved Children', with Todd continuing on Blackie.. For the very slow version of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', Todd had Foamy back. Jesse played the short verse leads on a turquoise-and-pink Stratocaster, but Todd wailed during the middle and end main lead parts.

'God Said' was next - this one lived up to all expectations, adapting well from the studio-computer generated CD version to a live-band version. For the start of 'Liar' the keyboard or computer-generated bass had the whole theater vibrating! When the lights started flashing all green the effect was spectacular, then Todd rushed to the microphone from backstage, his screaming vocal had everyone smiling and wondering how he could keep it up so long.

The band took their scheduled break while Todd played 'Beloved Infidel' on Foamy, seeming to have a little difficulty at times with one of the chords (looked like a difficult fingering of Fmaj7/9). This was the only song all night where the noise of the audience could be heard at the front of the stage. Todd noticed it, too, and commented later on those at the show paying more attention to their drinks than the show itself.

Todd finished the first set with his solo 'Lunatic Fringe'. Ok, Todd, I've heard this 3 times now (twice last year), time to move on?

The band returned to the stage while Todd took a break for a costume change and voice refreshing. Prairie had a grey or off-white suit, Kas' was light pink, Jesse was in hot pink with matching tennis shoes, and John had a bright turquoise blue suit on. They jammed for some time on 'Green Onions' before Todd finally returned to the stage in a black, red and yellow striped suit with black shirt and black-and-white matching tie and handkerchief for 'Soul Brother'.

Next up was 'Sweet', which had Kas and Jesse on keyboards, too - Kas looking a bit bored as he waited for his parts. Todd gave him a smile when Kas got one of the background parts from the CD just right, Kas smiling back at Todd. During the choruses, the audience was singing along, bringing more smiles to Todd's face.

'Past' was the next song, and mellowed out the crowd, couples swaying together to the song.

A half-twisted version of 'Born to Synthesize' was next, Todd missing his fruit and vegetable "shakers" from last year's tour. He took an extended break during this song to refresh his throat while Jesse and John had fun trading leads back and forth. When Todd returned, he and Jesse traded scat/guitar leads for fun, before doing the Jetsons-introduction part and the snooze-at-the mic thing ("Father Murphy"), Kas coming to the front of the stage to wake him.

Immediately after BtS, Kasim started the intro to 'Feel It', and this was followed by the 2nd set closer, 'The Want of a Nail'. Closing my eyes during these songs, I was almost transported back through time 15 years to the "big band" shows at Citi/Avalon - oh, to be 15 years younger again! It's been that long since I've heard these 2 songs live, too - who would have thought that Todd + 4-piece band could make them sound so good?!

After a very short time, Todd and the band returned to the stage for encores. Todd talked about seeing faces he hadn't seen in a long time (its been a few years since he played IN Boston), and mentioned the drinkers, then started 'Hello It's Me', which became the big sing-along song of the night. He chided some people for getting one part too early. At the end of the song he did his usual hand-shaking and hand-brushing from one side of the stage to the other (yes, he shook my hand!). 'Just One Victory' was the 2nd and final encore of the night - another song not heard live in many years, and another sing-along. The Boston crowd got the hand-clap part done right, too!

If I had ever forgotten why I love to see Todd live, this show put a permanent reminder in my head! The feeling and emotion are there in just about every song (yes, even Hello It's Me!) - and this, more than his songwriting ability, his guitar playing or the rest of his talents is what has made me a Todd fanatic for the last 25 years. Thanks, Todd, for the "sweeter memories".

Other reviews for Todd Rundgren and the Liars 2004
5/04/2004 - The Roxy Boston - Boston, MA

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