I did not walk into this concert with any such presupposition.
I had a different experience than the effete and overly critical analyses of the show. I was not a Todd Rundgren fan walking into the Wilshire. Walking out, I now consider myself a fan.
Having heard smatterings of Rundgren tunes over the years, and having listened closely to his more recent recordings, I doubted that there were real songs beneath all of the synth production and pop sensibility. Could this music be done on a single instrument? What Todd showed us last night was that the songs were there, and that they have substance beyond great lyrics. As my friend said at some point during the show, "This is like having him sing to me in my living room."
Indeed. It was like that and better. Todd's voice is amazing and it didn't disappoint last night. The only time a voice hits perfection at a rock concert is when it has effects and a backing band masking mistakes. I expect some pitch adjustment, especially with live monitoring, as opposed to the in-the-ear setup used by JJ. What we heard was real. It's sad that in letting us hear the artists and the art without electronic "help," Joe Jackson and Todd Rundgren were giving the pop-rock crowd something truly new. It is obvious that not all appreciated it. Perhaps the disappointed reviewers would have been happier if the concert promoters had just played the CDs for the evening.
Todd's carbon-fiber acoustic made some truly lovely sounds, and it is obvious that he is the consummate musician, having adjusted the tunings of his guitar to fit the jazz voicings of his songs. He obviously enjoyed himself, and the music, at one point stopping a song so we could listen to a particularly "juicy" chord he found, and then later confessing that while his guitar, or "this machine," as he called it, while not able to "kill facists," might yet distract them. Or was he talking about himself? Or the concert itself? That's why this guy is a genius. Throughout the evening, he maintained a disarming humor and charm. And, he was nicer to the guy who was yelling in the middle of the songs than I would have been. Todd had the audience laughing with him. "Sideshow Bob" was obviously some drunkard who had lost control. And the drunkard was not Todd. Todd was in control all night.
What may have been mistaken as drunkenness, may simply have been comfort and that looseness that one needs to perform. Rundgren was on from the first moment, and kept me entertained the entire show. Since I am an 'ukulele player, I was a bit disappointed that the Martin uke wasn't perfectly in tune, or that he didn't try some other songs on it. His speech on irony is natural. If you've ever performed with an 'ukulele, sometimes you feel like you have to apologize for it, especially when you know you may be facing the Cretin element.
From the looks of most of the reviews, I'd say Todd may have been right...about the Cretin element, and not the irony.
I'd go see either performer again in a flash. Joe Jackson was the perfect pairing, though I'm surprised nobody criticized his use of lyric sheets...