I always go to a new Todd / Utopia show with a sense of awe and wonder! From the earliest days when he toured with Hunt and Tony Sales, M. Frog and David Mason, wearing welders masks to look like space gods and playing the “Utopia” theme for the first time all the way through solo shows, the “old school” seven piece Utopia with Todd, Moogy Klingman, Ralph Shucket, Kevin Ellman, John Seigler, M. Frog, then John “Willie” Wilcox and Roger Powell to the “new” streamlined Utopia with Todd, Willie, Roger and a new kid Kasim Sulton. Todd’s and friends and their music has always been a bout change and heading in new directions. Sometimes experimenting with video, jazz fusion pieces 15 minutes long, guest spots by the Hello People at the Roxy ( go to YouTube to see them set up Todd’s BREAD from Hermit of Mink Hollow), or even his rock orchestra with back up singers ( michelle and company – the worlds most dangerous back up girls according to david letterman) Todd has always been an innovator and creator, someone born to truly synthesize!
Tonight’s performance was no letdown as Todd and company set out to please the Cleveland audience with a power packed set guaranteed to set your soul on “rock and roll” fire and make your heart skip a melodic beep to old and new pieces. I can’t believe how well he and Jesse Gress nailed the dual lead on “I saw the light”, I thought he and Elliot Easton of the cars did it as good as it gets, but he and Jesse surpassed all expectations. He reached back in time for the Nazz’s “Open My Eyes” as well as other “oldies” such as “love in action”, “black maria”, as well as Todd’s cover of “Lunatic Fringe”.
All of this was part of a rocking phase one.
Phase Two was Todd and band introducing us to his unreleased ARENA album with one hard rocking driving number after another. I and many others took this as a blessing to hear and feel this work in progress, much of my memories are a blur, with one song played after another, but may I digress with a snide chuckle to the courous of “this is my rifle this is my gun, this is for shooting this is for fun” on his new piece GUN, anyone who has seen Full Metal Jacket or been in the marine corp would know how I feel. The tender sweet “Weakness” has all the earmarks of a Todd Rundgren classic, and “Mountaintop” succeeded best at what this album is striving to be. Again it was a treat and a blessing to hear all this new music as a large piece, a sneak preview of what is to come and apleasant trip for one and all.
The band was tight there were no breakdowns and Todd, Jesse and Prarie Prince made it obvious that they had played together, the chemistry was “on the money”, newcomers Rachel Hayden and Matt Bolton filled out the sound well and should work there way into the performance when they get a few shows under their belt. Todd’s banter was short and to the point and kept the audience pumped and wanting more.
On another note was dealing with the corporate bullshit at the house of blues. Our seats were so far to the side that all you could see was a railing, Todd and Jesse, they have no business charging people for those seats, if there was a spot light operator we wouldn’t have seen anything. After parking about a half mile away and waiting in a long line I was hassled by snot nosed security kid because of the lens on my digital camera, Truly the Sony F717 is the “John Holmes” of digital cameras but it’s still just a digital camera, and they did not hassle anyone else. Their only solution was to go back to my car and then get back in line, no I couldn’t use the coat check or leave it in the managers office. I guess this is what you should expect with a “well endowed” camera at the House of Blues. To my rescue came Lani Hanson and the merchandise girls who held on to that bad boy for me, and returned it to me at the end of the night. These ladies were sweet, beautiful and kind as they took care of this old Utopian! They had great stuff on sale Todd boxer shorts, great looking Todd ARENA T-Shirts, buttons and bumper stickers and Todd’s fountain of youth water from Hawaii for anyone who missed his 60th birthday bash TODDSTOCK !!! Make sure you stock up on goodies and tell ‘em arkanjul sent you! So now I get back in line go to the bar to get a drink and the young lady ( perhaps 22 ) tells me (a 58 year old who looks like santa’s older brother) I can’t buy a drink without a paper bracelet, so guess what? You guessed it, back out to the entry way for a paper bracelet and then ???? back in line before I could re-enter and head for the bar and finally get a drink. House of Blues ?? Give me a break.
Would I put up with that to see Todd again?? Hell Yea!!
Am I anticipating ARENA ??? You Know it