Todd Rundgren's Johnson - Cubby Bear North 4/16

Review by Suzie Richardson (Switch to

Todd Rundgren's Johnson....When that sly tongue in cheek album/tour name was announced, and the motivation behind choosing this genre was made public, some wondered how it would all pan out. But being a TR loyalist, I immediately got my VIP ticket for the Cubby Bear North. If you questioned him playing Robert Johnson tunes, his motivation, or asked "Is he serious?" To them I will answer "Yea of little faith...."

Having witnessed the April 16th show, I can assure you the show was serious. Serious guitar, serious vocals, serious original music, serious Johnson. The show rocked! It was constructed so there were two Johnson tunes, then two TR tunes. (I laughed out loud when Todd explained the concept by saying "little Johnson.., little me".) Even though you could tell he was having some fun with it, when it got down to the tunes, it was back to business.

What a stroke of genius to lace some obscure but hard core guitar heavy original tunes, with the re-done Johnson tunes, huh? A well crafted set list my friends. Putting 'Open My Eyes' and 'Busted' before 'Red Hot' was a smart move. I thought 'Sweet Home Chicago' was kind of slow, like I wanted to kick it up - but maybe it was because I've heard that song a bazillion times already in Chi Town, but it was done his way like a steamroller plowing through. Then came "Unloved Children" followed by "Mirror" so all was forgotten. The Johnson tunes were rockin bluesy, just listen to his rendition of 'Crossroads'. My only scratch my head moment was the placement of 'Tiny Demons' during the encore. Good song but maybe out of place, but no regrets hearing it though.

The band was 'ON' and together. They seem to have progressed from the AWATS 'opener' loose garage band-y delivery I saw early on YouTube, to this tight group. I felt Prairie's drumming settled into the grove nicely. Jesse and Todd played off of each other so well. What great guitar players they are. This was our first introduction to Butters, the "Lucille" of the tour, what a treat. God, I love to hear Todd play the guitar! Kasim's voice is always so complimentary with Todd. Great vocals. Maybe it was the sound mix too, that was great to my ears. It was a heavy, well executed guitar/vocal show. So for me it worked, the whole "Package" (o.k. I couldn't resist).

The Cubby Bear North was a great place for this show (thanks CLB). My VIP ticket included dinner and early admission, so plenty of time to meet up with some old friends, and make some new ones. I was able to get in front of the stage. How cool is that? If you did not want to stand, there were plenty of tables (where my husband stayed), or you could try to snag a balcony seat. I caught the waif of many a herb in the air (WINK-WINK). Oh yeah.. Ironically, the stage was right off the kitchen and they didn't bother closing the curtain when the music started so you got a good shot of the cooks in the kitchen listening to 'Come In My Kitchen.'

Todd has shown me he is not willing to rest in the past, nor coast. He works hard. Expect the unexpected. (Did I mention how much I love to see Todd play the guitar?) So bring on Arena, bring on AWATS, bring on the Johnson, bring out the old tuneage, bring us some new, bring us 'Todd' and 'Healing', bring it on Todd. It is a great time to be a Todd fan!

Thanks to Doug and Mel and RundgrenRadio, who were both at the show. I hope they had a good time in the Midwest. Come back to Chicago any time.

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4/16/2010 - Cubby Bear North - Lincolnshire, IL

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