AWATS/Orpheum Review

Review by John Baker  (Switch to

I've waited thirty years for this show. Here on the morning after, I can think only of cliche superlatives: fantastic, outrageous, phenomenal, incredible, and lastly, the best damn Todd show I've ever seen, and I've seen just about every tour since the early 70's. In fact, I saw the Arena show three times. This was the best of the best for many reasons starting with the fact that I knew every lyric, every nuance, every guitar riff (and sax, keyboard, electronic synthesized sound, etc.) for the entire AWATS album which I've listened to literally thousands of times. I'm on my third copy of the CD after wearing out two vinyl album versions and two aforementioned CD's. 

So, excuse my bias. I've always loved this album. This music has been through every adult phase of my life including several careers, a few wives, my four children (who also know Todd's music intimately), and myriad other life experiences. My various email addresses through the years have always had the word "awats" in them. I've oft quoted the lyrics as in "the love between the ugly is the most beautiful love of all", and "stow the mincey lisping". Every time I'm a little down or a little confused, I listened to "Sometimes I Don't Know" just to remind me that everyone feels like I do and my feelings were valid, normal, and in line with human existence. So it was natural for me to have low expectations of a live performance of an album that has absorbed so much of itself into my life and my blood. I was worried that it might disappoint. On the contrary. 

It was the BEST Todd show I've ever seen. Period. I've said it before, but this time I really mean it.

Let's back up for a minute. I've read or heard a few less-than-positive comments on Todd Rundgren's Johnson, the opening set of the show played in front of the curtain with the regular boys in the band. Don't listen to those comments, listen to the music. I really enjoyed this new blues side of Todd and I can't wait for the album to be released. It helps that I grew up playing twelve-bar blues on the guitar, so I guess there's more bias here, but this set rocked and allowed Todd to cut loose on the stick. It was the perfect warm up act and an added bonus to a perfect night out with Todd.

Now for a few more superlative comments on awats live. The set list was, oh never mind, you know it. The costumes were humorous, appropriate, theatrical, and just plain fun. The band was focused, spot on, and did a very accurate job of replicating the album. While it would be politically correct and just to mention each member by name with a compliment attached, the pinnacle supporting cast member moment was Bobby Strickland's sax solo. My God.

Todd's voice was strong and the medley brought tears to my eyes. Do you have any idea how many women I've played that medley to? The rainbow guitar was fabulous. Todd muffed one lyric, quickly recovered, and reminded us that we were watching live theater. Glitches? Not many. This was an intense ensemble performance that was delivered with precision. 

 I turned to my daughter Laura and said, "You're watching history being made here. You'll be talking about this twenty years from now."   

Is it obvious that I really enjoyed this show? 

Thanks Todd. Thanks for everything you've given us. I sincerely appreciate you and just want you to know that you have been a positive influence in my life. 

Here's to the next twenty years . . .

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12/04/2009 - Orpheum Theatre - Los Angeles, CA

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