YOU HAD ME AT “HELLO . . . “ THIRTY-SIX YEARS AGO
Just when I thought I had packed my teenage obsession with Todd Rundgren away with my jean cutoff short-shorts (the ones with the butterfly patch sewn onto the bum – the ones I couldn’t wear around my dad); my roller skating jersey; my gold wrap around snake arm bracelet; my emotionally blown out mood ring; and the dried-up powder blue carnation - a corsage from my first formal Junior High School dance (FYI: it will always be “Junior High,” not “Middle School,” to my generation) . . .
Just when I thought by packing away my old LP’s and 45’s in exchange for CD’s and Mp3’s; (cassettes – not worth mentioning - came and went with little hoopla; 8 tracks were alright, but I never really bought into them much) . . .
Just when I thought by growing three babies into adulthood; by finally committing to wearing sunscreen, faithfully; and by accepting the fact that my last name would never be Rundgren . . .
Just when I thought I had come to see Todd through the eyes of a fully matured, real woman (as I blogged about last November 2006 when I saw him perform with The New Cars). . .
And just when I thought IT WOULDN’T HAVE MADE ANY DIFFERENCE at this point in my life . . . he comes to town in his familiar, charming, silly, witty, intelligent and incredibly talented Todd way . . . turning up the heat (without the needed aid of a warm-up band) in a small corner of Detroit on a minus twenty degree Fahrenheit night . . . and twists my plot.
By the time I enter The Magic Bag, promptly at eight o’clock for doors, having stood outside in a line, a smile is already frozen to my face. And, even after I melt, it remains. I can’t help myself. I admit it’s a bit over the top for me to carry on this way. But it feels so good. It feels like all those years, all that time elapsed, every trial and tribulation along the way were erased in one fell swoop (and swoon) for one evening and one day of afterglow. I am, once again, in my skinny, prepubescent twelve year old body, sitting Indian-style on my bedroom floor, brown braids running down my shoulders, burning Nag Champa (wait, I still do that) and playing Todd albums over and over and over again on my record player. Even the mention of ‘record player’ feels electrifying. (But since plugs were not polarized back then, that may be adding to some of my ‘memory electric’).
So, here I am with about three-hundred people: loyal fans of four decade's worth of music (and An Elpee's Worth of Toons). Todd is our number one highest common factor and, per his request, our No. 1 LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR (tongue in cheek symbol inserted here. TR fans will understand). We have gathered together on this thirtieth day of January in the eighth year of the third millennium for an up close and personal, “Freeze Your Ass Off” tour. Some of us are seated at tables, others chose to stand, in this big living room atmosphere; drinking, singing, laughing and swaying our hips when we couldn't help ourselves any longer. We converse with Todd from our seats and he banters back at us about our city’s recent embarrassing political scandal, his non-political-non -endorsing-political-views, religion, public MySpace secrets, and other common dinner table conversation topics. He strums his music into existence and sings to us from his soul . . . he is our most gracious and generous host. And, he is a huge talent on a dangerously small stage, as he quickly finds out when “some of his best guitar riff footwork” during “Buffalo Grass” - the first song on the set list - almost sends him into the Snare of drummer Prairie Prince . . . a mere two steps behind him. Todd has always been too big to be limited by space or time . . . too big to be held down by gravity.
His set list included a little something from the past three decades - dating back to 1970 up to the new millennium - with a little more Something/Anything than anything else: He played Black Maria, SLUT, and one of his signature hits; I Saw The Light. As big of a hit as that song was and as much as I loved it back in 1972 . . . nothing has changed. It is a timeless piece of musical beauty and my heart remembered its every note. Todd surprised me with No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator, but not until after he half joked about seeing the young looking “angelic face shoved right up front.” Lowest Common Denominator is a sexually metaphorical song (electric eel and great equalizer) that includes a recitation of an erotic ‘poem of love.’ Todd continues; “I know for frickin’ fact that this is not an all ages show, ergo, we may speak frankly because the thing I hate is being the first one to give your youngins a talk . . . You’re cramping my style!”
Even though he played for almost three hours, he could not possibly include all of his songs, or even all of his hits. He did not have a keyboard on stage and did not do some of his pop hits like, “Hello It’s Me,” and “A Dream Goes On Forever,” and “It wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” to name just a few. But, we didn’t come to see Todd to hear Todd imitate Todd . . . (that's what separates the real man fans from the boys) for he is in a constant state of metamorphosis and evolution and I’m surprised he even has a set list at all.
He truly is A Wizard A True Star who landed right here at The Magic Bag on the (OOPS) right PLANET, bringing us a glimpse of Utopia and casting his musical spell and wizardry over us - his tireless, faithful fans – by kindly reversing the clock (much like Superman) and restoring to us our youthfulness and our original heads of lustrous, pigmented hair . . . if only in our own minds . . . and if only for one night.
Of course, on stage, Todd could not play every instrument and sing every part himself as he can do in studio and did on three of the four sides of his third solo album: Something /Anything circa 1972. So, he was in the company of three respected, accomplished, talented musicians: Extremely gifted drummer (and artist) - Prairie Prince - who banged out beats for The Tubes; Jefferson Starship, The New Cars (also recorded with Todd, Brian Eno, David Byrne, to name a few); guitarist (performer, educator, author and former music editor of Guitar Player) Jesse Gress; and bass guitarist–Kasim Sulton.
Kasim is highly recognized for his incredible talent as a musician, singer, songwriter and producer. He has worked with a diverse group of musical artists from Meat Loaf, Patti Smith, Joan Jett and Mick Jagger, to Hall and Oates, Celine Dion, and Patty Smyth. But of course, me being the Todd fan I am, I recognize and appreciate him most for his thirty something years with Todd Rundgren and Todd’s band Utopia. Kasim has a palpable charismatic charm that could do serious damage to the female heart. His name should really be Kasim Sultry . . . because he oozes passion and sensuality. I admit, I was taken by his charm and talent, although I tried very hard to resist his hypnotizing eye contact. I won’t say whether or not my efforts worked. Please, God, I do not want to trade one obsession in for another . . . although, really, I am not obsessed in an unhealthy, crazy way with Todd . . . only another tried-and-true fan would understand my loyalty and passion. By tried-and-true fan, I mean someone who, when they think of TR, the first thing that comes to their mind is NOT only ‘Hello It’s Me.” Like Zappa, Rundgren chose truth to Self and heart over pop culture and top forty. And for that . . . I thank him