Todd entered from backstage and began to sing to the music (first track from Liars) followed by the rest of the band a couple of minutes later. The songs came fast, uncompromising, mesmerizing and glorious. After about four or five songs, a few impressions became painfully obvious to me:
1. Todd Rundgren is an absolute genius and he suffers for it.
2. A sizable portion of the audience hadn't bought a new Todd Rundgren album since Utopia released "Oblivion".
3. The lighter-in-the-air nostalgia show people were expecting (like they get from such hack performers as Steppenwolf or REO Speedwagon) never materialized.
4. The wrong people were in the front row. Very wrong.
I could understand some of the confusion and indifference - here is an androgynous sixty year old pop star in a dress screeching to a song that sounds more like Rage Against the Machine than ye olde Utopia, followed by a tear-inducing soulful ballad that shows that yes, Todd is one of the best soul singers around. And then some techno... Was the hell is this? I would have enjoyed every second of it, if only the people in front of me and in back of me could have just shut up for a minute or two and listened to the music instead of killing time until old Todd rolled out the classic rock radio hits (which never happened).
"This is the part of the show where you sing along," said Todd, grabbing an orange semi-hollow body electric guitar. The guitar was out of tune (I don't have a single concert recording of TR and/or Utopia where his guitar actually stays in tune, so that's nothing new). Todd played and sang solo on two songs before the band returned to the stage. Introductions to the band members were to the theme song for the old cartoon 'The Jetsons'. This elicited some laughs.
Todd Rundgren is not a nostalgia act and the majority of the audience was slow to wake up to that fact. For the most part, the audience sat passively, indifferent, clapping politely after each song (except us faithful few who leaped up and applauded in true Rock-n-Roll fashion). An artist has to grow, evolve, explore, move on. And as much as I would have LOVED to hear 'The Seven Rays' or 'Swing To The RIght' I was just as equally glad to hear all the new tunes off of Liars. I don't know all the song names or the words, but I do know Todd and Todd is Godd. What a voice! On the rock stuff, on the Philadelphia soul ballads, on the pop tunes, the techno riffs, an excellent unmistakable vocal delivery. "I was born to synthesize..." swing-jazz-soul. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps..." Surprise!! A song the audience recognized!! Rock God solos galore. Break time - the band breaks into 'Green Onions' while Todd dips backstage for a breather, Ferenzik and Gress riffing solos over Sulton and Prairie Prince rhythms.
I was farther back so I didn't hear what was going on in the first row, but whatever it was really got to Todd. He made comments about 'keeping the peace' and 'calm yourselves down', and later, he actually stopped the band during a ballad he was just starting. "All right, this has got to stop! If you don't, I'll have you thrown out!" Todd was visibly shaken, pissed off and not having a good time. Security personnel made their presence known to the first row (euphemistically speaking) and things went smoothly after that. In fact, spirits considerably rose by the end of the concert when Todd reached out to the audience, shaking as many hands as possible, "We're all here to have a good time, right? So let's dispel all that negative energy."
By this point, after a costume change, Todd was in a flame-orange suit and Sulton was without a shirt (but he kept the jacket and silk tie). Prairie Prince as a deacon? Hmm. I would have liked to see more action from Kasim (what a monster bass player) but no opportunities arose (though I did hear him slip in a few 16th note runs in a few places). Todd grabbed his guitar on occasion to rip a Rock God orgasmic guitar solo but was content to allow Gress to handle most of the guitar parts.
The show ended with 'Hello It's Me' and 'Just One Victory'. It was (insultingly!) the only time when the entire audience was on its feet and stayed on its feet. What fun - singing along... 'Give us just one victory...' I hung around for a bit afterwards with the hard-core fans, hoping for an autograph (Nazz, TR and Utopia LP sleeves under my arm just in case...) but it looked like there were too many people and a long wait so I left.
Excellent concert. I really felt in awe of his performance. Very inspiring. I just wish the whole audience could have been as appreciative as the minority of enthusiastic TR fans there were.