Our road-warrior cockiness turned out to be unfounded, though, when, upon arriving in Kentish Town, I realized I had left my ear plugs in our hotel room back in Westminster. Having been a working musician in my younger days, I cooked my hearing years ago resulting in a ringing in my ears that will never go away. Additional exposure to loud music will only make the problem worse, so I deposited my friend at a local pub (with several quid in his pocket and draft beer available aplenty, my pal made out like he was a local), and I was back onto the Tube for the hour-long roundtrip to retrieve my plugs (stupid bastard!).
I got back to Kentish Town in time to drink a quick pint and to say hello to my friend’s new drinking buddies. Then we split and joined the orderly line outside The Forum for the gig. The venue was much bigger than the one in Paris. I was told there were 1,400 tickets sold and it looked pretty packed. Sorry for the obscure reference, but if you’ve ever been in the TLA in Philadelphia, picture that 1/3 again larger. We immediately staked our space at center stage 5 people back from the stage.
The opening act, like in Paris, was the astonishingly good Eugene Francis Jr. (http://www.myspace.com/eugenefrancisjnr) . I’d never hear him prior to Paris, but consider me a fan now. He combines thought-provoking lyrics with folky and atmospheric guitar playing based on a variety of clever open tunings. He did 7 songs or so, but I would have happily listened to a longer set. For a Todd crowd, the audience was respectful and responsive. [Hey Eugene, please come play the U.S.]
When the band finally came out, it was clear they were ready to tear this one up. It was the last show of the European leg, the crowd was on fire, and the band was ready to play. As Todd said, “this is as close to an arena as we’re going to get on this part of the tour” and they played as if they were at Wembley instead.
There was one potentially scary moment when Todd completely wiped out on stage. I think it was during Open My Eyes and his exuberance got the best of him. Mid-song he was flat on his back and had knocked his amp off its stand on the way down. In fact, he broke the amp stand and had to improvise a replacement. After the song he came to the mic and said, “oh no, now I’m breaking shit.” He’s lucky it was only the stand that was broken.
I’ll let others give the song-by-song reviews, but I’ll close by saying that the cross-Atlantic trip my buddy and I made to catch two Todd shows was, to us, easily justified by the fantastic performance of the whole band. Todd Rundgren is in great form and playing an outstanding new album with a talented group of musicians. And by the look of it, he’s having a lot of fun in the process.