Todd Rundgren’s Johnson at the Blue Ocean Music Hall, Salisbury, MA 4/3/10

Review by Mike B (Switch to

I had already committed to going to the Todd Rundgren's Johnson show at the Wolf's Den at the Mohegan Sun when the show at the Tupelo Music Hall (now Blue Ocean Music Hall) was announced, and though I had some trepidation at attending an "all blues" show, having Todd appear within 30 miles of where I live was a chance not to be missed. The one problem I did have was that I had already purchased tickets at the sister-Tupelo Hall for the same night for another show -- my wife's choice: Judy Collins. Luckily, we found someone who wanted to go to that show with her, freeing me to use the front table ticket I had purchased for the Todd show.

The Blue Ocean Music Hall is right on the beach -- literally - waves roll up right underneath the place during storm surges. The building is just a big metal box, but inside the venue has been completely refurbished and is very nice. For assigned-seating shows, they have tables to seat 6 and fit a little less than 500 people total -- Saturday's Todd Rundgren's Johnson show was sold out.

The venue's web blurb about Todd indicated that Todd was still playing with The New Cars -- hopefully there were not too many people who came to the show because of that. Inevitably, there were people shouting for songs like Hello It's Me -- the wife of a friend of a friend sitting at my table called out for it all night. She was somewhat placated by I Saw The Light during the encores.

Compared to the TR's Johnson songs heard as the opening sets for the California AWATS shows last December, the band has tightened up their sound and timing tremendously. There were only a few loose parts which I would expect to hear firmed up during this tour -- there had only been one rehearsal and one show prior to this show.

Right from the start Todd came out putting his (expected) all into his singing and playing. The set list ran as 2 Robert Johnson songs, then 2 Todd songs, 2 RJ songs. 2 Todd songs, which kept the people there for both type of songs happy. Todd said at one point that "Blues shouldn't be hard work" -- as he towel-dried his sweaty brow, showing he was feeling the songs, not just playing them by rote.

Most happy were those of us in the audience who have been attending Todd shows religiously ("The Church of Todd") over the years -- we heard songs not played in ages and songs never done live before.

In the latter category -- the Nazz tune 'Kiddie Boy', from the Nazz Nazz album. Done early in the set list, most audience members had probably never heard this song, but it certainly got everyone's attention.

Other highlights:

Mystified/Broke Down and Busted/Mystified -- over 12 minutes long!

No 1 Lowest Common Denominator -- orgasmic!

Tiny Demons (the 2nd encore song) -- mind melting! Can't wait to hear this as part of the Healing album done live in September!

Hamburger Hell -- the final encore. I don't think this has been done live since Utopia-late 70s time.

Any fans who decided to forego a show on this tour because they didn't want to hear Todd do a bunch of Robert Johnson cover songs -- you may have thought you knew what you were missing -- but you were wrong!

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4/03/2010 - Blue Ocean Music Hall - Salisbury, MA

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