My old college roommate, his wife, my wife, my 21 year old daughter, and I saw Todd at the Marquee Theater in Tempe (near Phoenix) last night. Here are some observations.
The Marquee is a standing room only venue. When we walked in, they had 8 rows of 12 chairs set up on each side. My daughter remarked, "Oh look, they have chairs, because you guys are old. :-)" The chairs were all taken. We stood in the middle with out 200 other people. All told, there were about 400 of us. Todd expressed his disappointment with an opening joke: "You people are the cream of the crop in Arizona. I'm not sure why the other numbskulls didn't show up."
The most popular attire for the night was Bill Bricker's 40 years of Todd T-shirt to commemorate the Rolling Stone ad. I had mine on.
The opening band was called Wednesday. This featured a tattooed female vocalist who over sang most of her material. It was like a poorer version of Bette Midler. She was gracious and did not overstay her welcome. Her brother's name is Todd. So when she called her mom and said she had a gig with Todd, her mom thought it was a family reunion.
"Love In Action" was serviceable. Todd's voice needed to warm up.
"The Walls Came Down" was great. Some people lament Todd doing cover tunes. This made "Love In Action" seem tame. This was the first time we could really feel the bass.
"Open My Eyes" was serviceable.
"Lunatic Fringe" was very arena-like especially the "Oh" parts of the choruses. Once again, this made "Open My Eyes" seem tame. My old college roommate was taking pictures with a decent, but not professional camera. Since it had a removable lens, security confiscated it because "Mr. Rundgren does not allow professional pictures." They returned it at the end of the show.
"I Saw The Light" was well done. You could tell Todd was trying to please.
Before playing this song, Todd explained that the new album was intended for an arena. "So the next time we see each other, we will be playing in a much bigger place. :-)" "Mad" showcased the background vocals quite well. The combination of Jesse and Rachel sounds like Kasim.
"Afraid" was just plain good. Even my daughter said "I like that one."
During the bridge of "Mercenary" when Todd sang "I will lay a foe to waste..." we all remarked that this is the Todd we all know and love.
I don't think any of us cared for "Gun."
Before "Courage," Todd noted that we might want something "sweet" for our palette. He obliged. Unlike other shows, he didn't offer his double your money back guarantee. He could have, because everyone loved it.
As the intro to "Weakness," Todd noted that he has every right to play the blues as much as any other guy. In a nod to the lore of the black community that they invented the blues which was then stolen by the white man, Todd said he would make no claim to inventing the blues. He did say that he could play the blues better than Barrack Obama which would be an easy feat, since Barrack was born in Hawaii.
On "Strike" Todd encouraged us to fist pump. The song was well delivered and had a moderate amount of audience participation.
"Pissin'" was just plain enjoyable. The song tells a story.
The synthesizer intro to "Today" went awry. Todd apologized and said "I'm sorry. This is the first time we are running this from the stage. Pretend we are like Southwest airlines and have left you on the tarmac for a half hour or so. We'll redo it. That part is so pretty anyway..." They restarted and the song went off without a hitch. This was the favorite for my college roommate's wife.
IMHO "Bardo" is just too plodding to be enjoyed live. Though my old roommate had no prior knowledge of the song, he tapped me on the soldier and said "sounds like Robin Trower," and I replied "Bridge of Sighs."
Having been an Oshkosh listener, "Mountaintop" was unfamiliar to me. This is easily the best song of the night. Todd explained how he lucked into the "Bang the Drum" popularity for sports teams. He said this time he tried to write a song that could be played at sporting events. Something with random words that could be used at soccer matches across Europe. Since soccer is not understood by Americans, it would be fitting that the Europeans not understand the song.
"Panic" does nothing for me. Todd explained that the degree of difficulty to play this song live is 9.8, but it will never be one of my favorites. It's like a version of "Yer Fast" that is too fast to hear the notes or discern the words. As an Oshkosh listener, this one too was new to me.
"Couldn't I Just Tell You" reminded us of the Todd of old - including the Rockettes like dancing in the middle.
The phrasing of "Just One Victory" was very different from previous versions. I almost want to call it "Just One Victory 2008." Matt's keyboard playing seemed out of place - almost distracting. Despite this, it was a great way to close the show. It was a long show, and even though I had been standing for 3 hours, I would have stood more to hear more.
I knew the words to the songs. I had been listening to the Oshkosh performance. During the 4th of July week, I had transcribed most of the lyrics. To show their poetry, I grouped them into little stanzas, ran the spelling checker, etc. I have them posted at:
My daughter complained that she couldn't understand the words. My wife and I had been listening all week on our iPods, so we were prepared. My old roommate and his wife had no prior knowledge of the show. They thought the new songs were fantastic and represented a wide array of arena musical styles. This tour is not to be missed. Todd recognizes that this is how musicians make their living. He is giving it his all. His enthusiasm for the new songs is obvious, and it rubs off on us.