New Orleans HOB, Liars Tour, 5/23/04

Review by Dan M (Switch to
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5/24/2004

It seems there was a young man who had been raised as a Southern Baptist, but had never spent much time in church. Seeking spiritual fulfillment, one day he decided to make a cross-country trip on foot, thinking that the journey would purify his soul and lead him on the path to enlightenment. Eventually, he ended up in the Northeast, and being wearing from his journey, stopped at a very small, conservative church.

He went inside, and, upon finding no one inside, proceeded to lie down in a pew towards the back of the church, where he fell asleep. He awoke some time later to find himself listening to a sermon. It turned out that the pastor of this small, conservative church was practicing for the following Sunday. And as the traveler listened, he became enamored of the words the preacher spoke, and became deeply moved by the experience. In fact, he was so moved that as the preacher finished his practice sermon, the traveler jumped up from his pew in a fever of emotion and exclaimed "Hallelujah!"and "Praise The Lord!"

This startled the preacher, who had assumed he'd been alone the entire time. "Please sir!," he commanded from the pulpit. "I would prefer it if you could contain your enthusiasm. This isn't the kind of church where people jump up out of the pews and yell "Hallelujah." "But, Reverend -", the traveler pleaded, "I got religion!"

"Well, sit down-" the preacher demanded, "you didn't get it here."

What is it, exactly, about Todd Rundgren's music that can fill your heart with such extraordinary joy, or leave your heart feeling such an immense, unfulfillable longing? I wish I could put my finger on it, but I can't. What I can tell you, though, is that this is not only my favorite Todd record since Nearly Human came out 14 years ago; but, I've seen him many, many times, in concert, and I tell you this, now, my fellow Rundgrenites - I can't remember ever seeing him better. I'd put this right up there with the time I saw Clapton, Beck, and Page on the same stage, together.

His voice was as perfectly angelic-sounding as on A Capella. I don't know where previous reviewers got that about him not playing guitar. Yes, Jesse handled much of the work, but Todd was all over that thing, too; especially on "Just One Victory" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Beatles'signature false start included at no extra charge, thank you). For anyone who saw Prince, Petty, and Crew do this at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this year, this was a real treat. It helped make up for me not making it to any of the Abbey Road dates, too. And, by the way, for you Beatles fans, John Lennon never said, "We're bigger than God". There was a short in the mic, and he was misquoted. He actually said, "We're bigger than Todd!" referring to O.H., who was about 17, at the time. The religious costumes were fantastic and the lights were cool, too. But, the MUSIC. My God, what incredible music! "Past", "Truth", and the other material from Liars sounded great. The smattering of oldies only left one lusting for more.

You know, one of the best things about being a Todd fan is all of the great people you meet at his shows. It was so great seeing all the faces that are there, every year, once again. Donna, the Todd Queen of New Orleans, was there, as ever. I wonder if she even bothered moving from her seat up front, last year, or if she just sat and waited all year for another encore. I wouldn't put it past her, such is her love for this man. She was there with her sister, Sandy, and brother-in-law, Gary.

I finally got to meet Paul, a perennially familiar face, formally, for the first time. And, all of the Toddheads that used to call me at KLSU and egg me into playing his music all the time were there, too. There was a guy in the front row I talked to, who looked amazingly like Andy Pettite, who was going to copy the sheet music to S/A for me to learn "Dust In The Wind", but we got separated before exchanging our info. Plus, I met some very nice people from Oklahoma City, Al and Darcy, the latter of whom was a newcomer to Runtitudinous pursuits of this kind, and, who proclaimed, afterwards, that it was the best concert she'd ever been to. I'm really bummed, too, because I wanted to keep in touch with them, and all I can remember is that his email address is al(something)agency at aol. So, I hope you guys read this and will write me c/o runtnut. You'd better post those pictures, too. Didn't see Randy and Nan G., from OKC, though. Perhaps the wind came and swept them down the wrong plain.

So, yeah, the concert was amazing. The people were great. The song list - the same as I've seen elsewhere, pretty much. I almost lost it when he sang "Beloved Infidel", it was so beautiful and poignant. The stuff from the new album sounded incredible. I was surprised that I didn't hear my favorite, "The Wondering", though. But, hey - what do I want from life? A baby's arm holding an apple, or an autographed picture of Randy Mantooth? And, speaking of the Tubes, "Feel It" was particularly memorable, tonight. And, we all did. If it were left to me, I would ask for straight versions of "Hello, It's Me" and "Born To Synthesize" But, otherwise, no complaints.

To answer the question that everyone seemed to be asking, by the way, it was, indeed, Red Rider, who recorded the original version of "Lunatic Fringe" that Todd is featuring on this tour. Does anyone have a clue what the jazz tune the band did during Todd's costume change. I have no idea. TR said it was Prairie's idea, almost as if he was reluctant to accept responsibility for it, himself. Todd seems to be keeping his thoughts to himself, on this tour, though. Where are the 15 minute rants about how it was the Beach Boys that really killed John Kennedy, or whatever? At any rate, the only addition to the set that could have made this even more soulful would have been if they'd have done "Had I Known You Better", from the TR-produced Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and Oates.

Really, it was amazing, though. Even the wait staff, who had intimated to me before the show that they weren't particularly looking forward to the evening, in the end, were making comments about how truly impressed they were with the performance. Still, for me, at least, the very best was yet to come. After parting ways with A&D, I ran and got my car, then proceeded to embark on the covert ops-part of the evening. I waited, stealthily, by the members-only door to the Foundation Room. Then, when someone came out, I slithered in (shhhh-). The next thing I knew, I was right there in front of the dressing room, talking to Todd, himself.

And, I knew I sounded about as goofy and na´ve as Opie, or something. But, even though I've made his acquaintance many, many times over the years, I felt compelled to tell him how much listening to him had turned me into a better musician and songwriter. He was typically nonchalant about it, but it felt good to tell him I felt I owed him something for everything he's taught me about music; not to mention life, itself.

I really pity the non-initiated. They have no idea what they're missing. I asked three different ones to come with me, but you know what they say about horses and water. It's difficult to explain to the unconverted that following Todd's career, as I recently read, is a lot like reading a big, thick Russian novel. You have to be willing to commit yourself to getting through the more difficult passages to fully enjoy the juicy bits. We Todd fans are almost like our own, little Mafia. It's "cosa nostra" - our thing. He consumes us and our loyalty is largely unflinching. And, it takes guts to be a Todd Rundgren fan. This is obviously a man who has spent many hours in careful reflection of the human condition and the suffering that goes on in people. Simply put, he and his music augment our lives. He cares about what he can do for music and not the other way around, which seems to be the major preoccupation of most "professional" performers, these days.

When the night is over, all you want to do is run out into the street and tell everyone about this truly religious experience- this healing that you've just witnessed and felt shaking your inner core. You feel like you just got a big dose of religion (altogether ironic in light of Todd's general iconoclast attitude, no?). But, I should have known that he would dismiss my fervor and tell me to sit down.

Hope to see you all again, next year. If my final year of law school doesn't kill me, I'll be the one with the bells. Can I get a witness?

Dan M (aka The Artist Formerly Known As The Professor)

" Paul - Paul -One day, I'm going to get ALL-L-L-L of my Todd Rundgren records together, and we're going to march EV-erybody up to my office and we're just going to have a HUUUUUUGE Todd Rundgren party." - David Letterman, expressing his disappointment at the network's decision to relegate Todd to "sitting in with the band" status, rather than allowing him to do a whole song.


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5/23/2004 - New Orleans House of Blues - New Orleans, LA

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