Todd Rundgren with Hall & Oates, Boston MA 8/23/05

Review by Dan Styklunas (Switch to

On a beautifully breezy, short-sleeved, not-too-hot August night, Todd Rundgren joined Daryl Hall and John Oates at Boston’s B of A Pavilion in the first of what will be 8 shows together. If you saw this combination in 2002, this is pretty much another coat of paint, but with more emphasis on soul tunes from both acts.

On the way there my wife asked me how I felt about Todd’s status as a warmup act. This fact was a little harder to swallow the first time these guys teamed up in 2002. I remember how I felt seeing the listing – Todd Rundgren opening for Hall & Oates – at the Balloon festival in Weymouth, MA? Definitely a Spinal-Tap-at-the-military-base kind of moment. But just as that show did not disappoint (except for the trainwreck traffic getting there), this would didn’t either, and should only get better for upcoming shows.

Todd came out to a drifting audience about 7:40, opening on solo acoustic with the familiar “Lysistrata” and “Afterlife.” While he broke stride to tune up within the opening 4 bars of each song, he seemed in good spirits, breezing through the numbers with the Boston harbor in the background and a good turnout of his fans readily soaking up the sunset. Afterlife is nice but still does not do it for me as a solo arrangement – he rushes the answering line “Even in my afterlife” each time in trying to handle all the vocals.

Then the H&O train set comes out to back him up on 7 songs, mostly from Liars with a few favorites. The band did fine, and it was clear there was at least some rehearsal. There were no major blunders, backing vocals were done right, and a few solos carried the night. But there was a general tentative feeling throughout the set, as you could tell the band was being careful. Once they run this set a few times it should warm up nicely. (But with only 8 shows… that’s pretty much when they would get nice and warm.)

“Soul Brother” was first, with Todd nice and animated, setting the tone in lyric and in spirit for a night of soul to be remembered. H&O horn utility man Charlie DeChant (a.k.a. “Mr. Casual”) took a nice turn at the flute solo. He’ll get better at it, but it beats the keyboard version we’re used to by John Ferenzik. (Hey, it’s a real flute, ok?)

“Sweet” comes next, and they start it a bit slow… Todd turns to drummer Michael Braun and circles his hand, trying to pick it up. It’s done well enough but the sound overall is pretty muddy, too drum-and-bass heavy. I’ve found I can’t listen to this song without a little sadness knowing that I’ll never hear Laura Nyro cover it. And I’m sure she would have… it has her name written all over it. “Past” follows, with much thankfulness… this is an out-and-out Liars set now, four in a row. Such a beautiful song, and Todd warms up nicely with it. It’s worth noting that the band is even employing some of the real samples from the Liars tunes, like the opening choked-delay on the cymbal crash. You can pick up many of these tidbits and doo-dads…. Yes, the boys must have practiced. I could not see who was triggering them… probably the keyboard player, Eliot Lewis.

Todd then picks up the foamy green guitar, and strides through “Buffalo Grass.” The band keeps up well, and bass player T-Bone Wolk does seem to enjoy himself. He always does… too bad his sound is still on the muddy side.

Then comes an appreciative “Hello It’s Me” and the crowd wakes up. “Love Is the Answer” is a real highlight, and is perfect for this crowd. H&O really caught fire in the early 70s when She’s Gone and Sara Smile got tons of airplay… at the same time ED&JFC hit with this song. DeChant comes out again to add harmony with the rest of the band. “Rock Love” closes the set, just as he did on this tour in 2002. Sound is a little better now, and the guitar player Jeff Catania takes a spot-on solo, leaving Todd to strut back and forth across the stage, a welcome sight, and we even get a Todd-A-Whirl near the end.

Then back to the Best of Marvin Gaye music at the break. After a few tunes, AWB’s “Pick Up the Pieces” comes on the PA, at a higher volume, and you get the feeling they’ll go on soon. Yes they do, with the band kicking it a few bars of the tune before lunging into the opening melodic breeze and Motown backbeat of “Maneater.” The place is near full now and everyone stands… showtime!

You would never know Daryl Hall had battled Lyme disease this year by his performance. He was just fine, and did mention the situation a few songs in… apparently he has some flyers about it in the halls, but I missed them. Still has those blond locks, and a lock on the women in the audience, standing, clapping, smiling, and sipping wine in plastic glasses.

“Say It Isn’t So” comes next, with T-Bone Wolk finishing the song with a behind-the-neck bass solo. (Is that really necessary? No… but it’s a T-Bone staple, and it’s still a good solo. The guy is a great groovemeister.)

If you like the soul side of Hall & Oates – pretty much their good profile – go get their new release “Our Kind of Soul.” It’s their update on the soul R&B canon of the 70s and these guys could cover almost any of those tunes in their sleep. They only do two of the songs from the record – the Spinners “I’ll Be Around” and Five Stairsteps “Ooh Ooh Child” – but do two others that never made it to the record. Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” was excellent… perfect showcase for Daryl’s blue-eyed soul, and it segues beautifully into “She’s Gone.” (The other cover not on the record, the O’Jays “Love Train” closes the show.)

Daryl mostly plays various guitars, but moves over to electric piano for “Sara Smile.” Charlie D does a nice solo on “I Can’t Go For That.” Mr. Casual does it all, playing soprano, alto, and tenor sax throughout the night, as well as flute with Todd.

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” is a real highlight, proving that slick arrangements of soul classics is nothing new for these guys. The Righteous Brothers classic is perfect fit for them. This closes the main set before Todd comes out to join them on the encores.

It’s déjà vu all over again, as they alternate the same 5 songs they did 3 years ago. But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Todd sings the first verse of “Wait for Me” and all is well. Daryl starts the beginning of “CWSBF”, and Todd reinforces the happy-family pattern by taking the intro for “Rich Girl.” My wife and I smile at this song, that we used to always sing about our first dog Sheba (she was a bitch girl…)

Todd moves to the center for “Saw the Light” and it’s funny how all of a sudden his mic is too low. He can’t sing at that much lower a volume than Daryl, could he? The audience is digging it, and you can see it begins to dawn on many of them just who this Todd guy is… or was. But the trade-off pattern breaks for “Kiss On My List” as Daryl sings the opening verse. I remember Todd doing it in 2002, thinking that having him sing the line “better off not listening to friend’s advice” totally transformed the song for me.

They all come out once more for “Love Train” – a righteous event, with Todd rocking on tambourine. (I know, many of you are thinking, “tambourine, so what?” Not so easy folks. It’s easy to play it badly.) This baby rocked, and the H&O train was in the station.

Time to go, off to see them in Hyannis… if you are on the fence, get off it and on the train! Set list, with covers in parentheses:

TR solo:

TR w/ H&O band: Soul Brother Sweet Past Buffalo Grass Hello It's Me Love Is The Answer Rock Love

Hall & Oates: Maneater Say It Isn't So Do It For Love I'll Be Around (Spinners) Me & Mrs. Jones (Billy Paul) She's Gone One On One Sara Smile I Can't Go For That Ooh Ooh Child (Five Stairsteps) Out Of Touch You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (Righteous Brothers)

TR and H&O Encores: Wait For Me Can We Still Be Friends Rich Girl I Saw The Light Kiss On My List

Final Encore: Love Train (O'Jays)

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