Imagine if you could become a particle within a solar flare, rising from the core of the Sun and whipping off the surface rocketing out into space, searing everything in your path and filling it with light. . . well that's what it felt like being at Todd Rundgren's show in Rochester NY Monday January 28th @ the German House Theater. There is some mystic-karmic bond that Todd Rundgren's following has between themselves and him; and of course it is also shared with his long time band mates, Kasim Sulton, Jesse Gress, and Prairie Prince.
Kasim's thunderous bass playing, along with Prairie's tremendous heavy hitting and drumming, and Jesse's virtuoso on guitar, playing his guitar as a fill for the non-existent keyboards on this tour, and as 1st and 2nd lead and rhythm guitar depending upon the tune, all added to the dimension of making this 4 piece band sound more like a six piece band. Of course that leaves Todd Rundgren. Todd Rundgren IS ONE OF ROCK'S ELITE GUITARTISTS, let's make that clear.
Todd's fan base is split amongst many groups from casual once a blue-moon tour attendee, to the sometimes we go to shows, and the avid must go to shows, fans. It also has a split that has been passionately debated on fan-forum sites about whether he is the balladeer, the pop musician and hit maker, the piano player or the Utopian/Guitar God, and which area of interest he ought to be pursuing from fans points of view. Those "in the know" knew that this tour as has been the case for the past 1 1⁄2 years (in between NEWCARS shows) was and is a major guitar tour.
As a long time fan and sometimes critic of his guitar mix and overall mix over the last few tours and years, I was not certain what we would get in terms of sound. Previous shows, his leads were really thin, not that thick sounding crystal clear searing that we have come to expect when this legend straps on his Foamy P-Project Fender Strat or an SG. I had attended the Ottawa Show in the Fall of ‘06, and the Philly Fillmore Show in the Spring of ‘07, so this was show #3 for me on this leg of the tour. Well someone clearly awoke the sleeping Guitar God, because Todd was in fantastic form Monday, slashing and dancing and walking to the edge of the stage to give fans a close-up of his fiery fret work. The Set list spanned 38 years of musical genius and guitar prowess. Fans should realize how privileged we are to have this guy, out on tour, now almost 60; playing blues infused screaming lead guitar like his contemporary's Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and newer players such as Warren Haynes, as well screaming and singing like no other in the rock world.
Opening with Buffalo Grass, the band laid down a tribal and pounding beat that ended with a way to short guitar solo that was not really crystal clear, and I thought - oh no, not again. The previous shows I had seen, you could see him wailing, but you couldn't HEAR it... By the time they finished with a rocking and screaming version of I Hate My Frick'n ISP it seemed some of the kinks, at least in Todd's lead had been worked out. There were, it appeared, some problems with Kasim's earpiece and bass sound, Prairie not being able to hear Todd, and Todd wanting Jesse turned down, and then during the beginning of Tiny Demons, the mikes all went dead. So clearly there were some issues happening sound wise. My biggest concern was, no offense to anyone else, or other band members, making certain that his lead screamed, and oh GOD, did it. It was a night filled with wonder and musical mayhem, sonically delivered. By the time we got done with Black Maria it seemed like we had been there for an hour, and had completely broken the laws of space-time. Yes it was really that good!
The SET LIST
Buffalo Grass - Tribal in its manner and a pleading singing screaming Todd ... Wrap yourself wrap yourself around my heart yyyoooouuuuuu ... nice solo at the end, but to short!
I Hate My Frickin' ISP - great screaming and rocked the house and got folks moving
Black Maria - simply a stratospheric blistering display of how to use notes and all of a fret board. Glad to know Foamy got a Fret Job! A Hendrixonian feel to the lead, which seemed to never end, and when it finally did, we still wanted more...
Soul Brother - a smooth funky fun upbeat Liars tune, had folks dancing
Mammon - A hard hitting and furiously played tune also from Liars. Jesse was a maniac on lead, hurtling notes out into the audience. What a tremendous player he is in his own right.
Fascist Christ - Todd is playing this slow burning lead that builds into this colossal solo at the end, breath taking!
I Saw the Light - a light hearted favorite to break the intensity of what already felt like 3 different shows perfectly seemed together into one that had gone on for hours...
Black and White - an old favorite that Todd plays the shit out of and shreds
Lunatic Fringe - the 1st cover they gave a ride, picture Red Rider on steroids, this tune rocked heavy and hard, and never sounded better
No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator - one of my all time favorites! By the time this song is over I am crying because I am laughing so hard about how scalding this was. Todd melds the primal scream in the middle of the song with an incendiary lead, loses his balance and continues playing this blinding lead while laying on his back, gets up and then finishes singing and slowly peels the paint from the walls by feeling for notes starting from the top of the neck and working his way over and down, giving this undeniable billowing sense that the entire German House has now lifted off the ground. A soaring and devastatingly searing guitar solo...simply magnificent!
Drive - another blistering solo in the middle of that song and then he and Jesse trade licks, so sweet, and a promise of things yet to come in a show, that as my dear friend and travel companion Jill kept pointing out from Soul Brother on, "they're still not done yet!"
Tiny Demons - the new red SG makes appearance, Foamy gets a break. Delicate intro and beautiful notes and then the mikes go dead. Once the problem is fixed, the band starts again and plays a shimmering version with Jesse playing unbelievable notes. Awesome.
Mystified / Broke Down and Busted / Mystified - straight ahead blues playing delivered by both Todd and Jesse. Each gets to showcase their licks on this 12 minute number and they don't disappoint. another shredder of the evening, with Jesse shining.
Slut - another change in direction and a break from the intensity of the serious riffing and note hurtling going on. Todd plays a nicely constructed lead in the middle of this one too. Who doesn't love this song?
Walls Came Down - 2nd cover of the night from the Call, also never sounded this good.
One World - uplifting and always a great sing along and closer before encores. How long have we been here and what day is it?! Hawking - 1st heard the electric version of this in Ottawa, and can tell you, it is majestic in its beauty. A lush and gorgeously performed ballad Trapped - Kasim and Todd trade vocals and scream this one out - trapped in a wwwwwoooooorrrrllllldddddddd that yyyyooooouuuuu nnnnneeeeevvverrrr mmmmaadddeeeee - TRAPPED - smoked!
Worldwide Epiphany - an all out heavy hitting version that nearly collapsed the roof; a screaming and playing fest that left everyone drained, but still wanting more. 21 songs later we were drenched with sweat, filled with a joyous loving feeling, and in AWE ... AWE...
Only regrets, I would have loved to see him replace the Walls Come Down and instead play While My Guitar Gently Weeps on this tour, as he did on Liars, although I may have needed medical attention if he had. Perhaps he will break it out again for the upcoming arena rock album/tour?! One can only hope. . . If you don't understand or believe that Todd Rundgren is seeking to reclaim his status as Guitar God, or that his gene pool make up has it imbedded within him after a show like this, you never will! Nobody puts on a show like this, nobody!
Last few things, please as we look toward a new album & tour, please whomever is responsible for this, make sure his guitar is mixed with those thick searing leads, please. He deserves to be heard. Also a special thanks to these guys for playing and continuing to do so; and of course their families for sharing them with us. Lastly, I was thrilled to see some of those I love dearly and don't see or speak with often enough, Kym, Lynn (and their men). It was also great to reconnect with Amy whom I have seen at many shows; and of course my traveling companion and great friend Jill. We drove down to Syracuse from Rochester after the show, laughing hysterically about just how incredible the show was, and how great we felt to have shared the moment. We listened to AWDAR from 2001 when we pulled into the drive way they were just finishing Golden Slumbers>the End.... And in the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make....
Play on Brother ... Play on...