How do you capture the essence of sun-rays, moon-beams, and the swirling beauty of the Aurora? The closest you'll ever get to that celestial combination or the ability to bottle it up, well, that is going to see exemplary rock legend Todd Rundgren perform live. To the bemusement of fans and critics alike, Todd Rundgren has blazed a path where no others have journeyed, namely everywhere. The privilege of attending my second Annual Rundgren Radio Party in Akron Ohio, and debut -- kick-off show of Todd's album Tour shows, has been nothing short of magnificent. I've been to a lot of parties in 30 years, and these are some of the best ever. The sheer enormity and presentation of the night's music was stunning and incredible. The special effects and costumes were perfectly done, and not the theatrical event last year that had Todd running off stage 12 times to change; and, instead, saw him planted on stage jamming at piano, or ripping fantastic leads on the famed replica of his Fool SG.
The highlights, uuuummmmm - everything... My expectations during the Todd set of a jamming Guitar God night, followed by the billowing synthesized orchestration and occasional blistering playing of Healing was awe inspiring. Eyes that have seen -- know what I mean . . .
For those that are not in the "know", Todd is peerless in his ability to put on the type of show witnessed not just last year, but even more so this year. There are those that play electric guitar as well, and those that sing as beautifully, but none that can do both -- together the way this guy can. Playing all but one song off the Todd Album, and then following it with the Healing album was a grand accomplishment of magnificence . . . think NASA Hubble pictures from deep space.
Todd's guitar playing, when mixed loud enough and crisp enough, and on this night it was - is like seeing Clapton in his Cream Days (or daze), Zappa at his finest, with a dash of Pete Townsend and a splash of Hendrix thrown in. The first set of the Todd album featured blistering solos on the Fool SG, or found Todd behind the keys jamming with the rest of the incredible band Jesse Gress, Kasim Sulton, Prairie Prince, Greg Hawkes, Bobby Stickland, and the accompaniment of a choir for the Healing set. To see him jam and not play a ballad on piano was even more interesting. Was it flawless, of course not; but those flaws were comical and rode the wave of excitement and anticipation for a night of howling (my apologies to anyone offended by my incessant howling) screaming (oh yah -- that too) and cheering at every turn. While my corporal body may have been glued to the stage, lasers, costumes and players, the other half of me took my ethereal form, wafting amongst the stars, clouds and lights high (define as you will) over the ceiling of the majestic Akron Civic Center.
The progressive movements of many of the instrumental numbers displayed the dexterity and ease with which Todd moves like no other through the various genres of the musical world. Guitar highlights in the first set included a wailing I Think You Know, a searing Last Ride, a jaw dropping Number One Lowest Common Denominator, onto the free form jamming and furious fret work of Everybody's Going to Heaven>King Kong Reggae and the slashing and blistering Heavy Metal Kids. Mixed in there were also these sweet gem stones, the kind that you'd have to dig for 1,000's of years under Egypt's sand to uncover, such as a Dream Goes On Forever and Izzat Love, closing with Don't You Ever Learn. As if that wasn't enough . . .
Then came the Healing set with Todd singing in perfect voice (as he did in the first set) leading things off with Healer. This was powerful and moving. Todd commanded the edge of the stage like a Holy man singing his way to the last Bardo. Pulse, Flesh and Golden Goose all followed with fantastic sythn runs and playing, backed by Todd's singing. By the time they got to Compassion, Todd had everyone in the palm of his hand. Compassion was delivered with the sort of genuine passion and beauty that not many are gifted to sing and perform with. Todd's singing during Compassion was a lesson in straight out delight and reverence of song, replete with a silk and golden voice, displaying the dichotomy of the night's sets. SHINE was up next. SHINE represented a haunting and enthralling journey which ended in a rhythmic cadence unabashedly blazing with synthesizers, drums, bass, chorus, and saw Todd again strapping on the Fool SG (OMG thank you!) to shred away through the summoning tale -- SHINE YOU MOTHER SHINE.......
This was followed by a wonderful near perfect album recreation of Tiny Demons. And there's more, and there's more......
This led the band to set off into all of Healing PT I, II & III. Each of these pieces of Healing was seamlessly strung together, and represents that lush Aurora that you want to reach out and bottle up. Time Heals wrapped it up, although there seemed to be some technical problems with the Fool SG on that number. The final encore was of course -- Sons of 1984. This song evoked the magic of caring and love about one another and everything that goes on around you. If only we all practiced it everyday. It made for an unbelievable ending to a phenomenal night of music. Again, was it flawless, no. The chorus at times wasn't quite loud enough; I actually think I may have been louder at some points. The segue of some of the night's music was not perfect, nor was Todd's piano playing, nor were some of the equipment and instrument changes; but you know what, this show was better than most bands on their hottest night. Even with the kinks not worked out quite yet, this show is a classic must see.
The delirium met hysterical laughter over hearing both the singing and orchestral shimmering intricacies of Healing; as a musical journey, floating within the layers and threads of time and space, having followed the flat out synthesized accompaniment of that guitar extravaganza of the double Todd album was a feast for the ears and eyes nearly beyond measure. The joy and anticipation of being onboard Todd's magic carpet for this ride, was a lavishly delicious dish of exquisitely delivered music. Aren't you hungry; won't you have a dish?
Play on Brother Play on ....