O.H. Plays Hurt in H-Town & Austin

Review by Bill Avey (Switch to

Athletes are always credited when they play hurt. In fact, it has become a metaphor for being a tough guy, so to speak. Rarely, however, do you hear the same metaphor about a musician. I am here to tell you that, as much as fans in Longview don't want to hear it, I witnessed O.H. "play hurt" two times in four days. The first show I attended was at the House of Blues in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, March 25th. My wonderful 30-year-old daughter took me to the show for my birthday. She grew up being forced to listen to Todd, and now she listens to him because she wants too. You know what this is called? Good Parenting! It was apparent from the opening song that Todd was not feeling very well -- not because his singing was bad, but because he was coughing not only between songs, but also during refrains within songs. All that said and done, the show was fantastic. His voice was on point, hitting octaves the average mortal can't fathom, and the set list was extremely challenging for a healthy Todd (or anyone for that matter), let alone for a performer who was clearly in the beginning phase of what I believe became an allergy-induced sinus infection. Having lived in South Texas now for nearly 20 years, I am more than aware of the oak, cedar, and just plain ole factions of the mold family in the air and more importantly, I am aware that I am allergic to all of the crud in the air and take precautions. O.H. probably was not aware of this. In fact, I will bet he probably felt better at his Monday show in Dallas, a 250 mile drive north of the New Braunfels/Austin area famous for springtime allergy air.

I had read some of the set lists from earlier in the tour and while I was hugely excited to see O.H. again, I actually was not in love with the set list. I was told by a 17-year-old fan named Adam that I would be favorably surprised by the revised set list and I was. Opening with the "Real Man/Love of the Common Man" duo only eased us into a night to remember. The "Hermit of Mink Hollow" trilogy was fantastic. In my previous 21 shows I had never heard him play "Determination" or "Lucky Guy" and then the wonderfully melodic version of "Can We Still Be Friends" completed the Hermit hat trick better than Ronaldino could score a hat trick at the World Cup. I was also very happy with the "Something/Anything" hat trick (I Saw the Light, Couldn't I Just Tell You to close the set, and then "Hello" as the first encore). Most memorable for me, though, was "Love is the Answer" which is not only my second favorite song of all time behind "The Star Spangled Banner," but it is also a song I played at my wedding (well, both of them actually), and I also want it played at my funeral in 50 years (I hope). I also loved the sit-on-stool-and-sing-your-ass-off section of the show, especially when he reminded us of all the "lying ass mother fuckers."

Now, I am a fan of most everything Todd has recorded and I appreciate/love the "radio hits" but I am truly more of a fan of the "guitar god" songs. While I would've much rather heard "Black Maria" than the Lorne Greene thing, it did show Todd's eccentric taste and great humor. I really thought "One World" should've been played, and personally, I would've loved to hear "Tiny Demons" and "The Wheel." Moreover, I have to admit it was weird leaving the shows not having just heard "Just One Victory." All this said and done, the Houston show was remarkable.

At the show in Austin on Wednesday the 28th, Todd was so sick he was coughing into a thick towel from start-to-finish and his voice faded in-and-out all night. He was so sick he should have been in bed, yet his spirits were good and he performed as well as ever. At a certain point in the show, he jokingly said that the show would have to become Karaoke night because his voice was fading as his illness worsened. Then all of a sudden, people from the audience went up and sang songs ranging from Marvin Gaye (the guy who sang that one was really good) to some dude named Randy (I think) singing the hell out of "Couldn't I Just Tell You." The Karaoke twist to the show is truly something only Todd Rundgren could pull off. Not only were the guest singers thrilled, but the audience loved every moment of it. I enjoyed this show so much because of the impromptu, Karaoke thing, and I felt horrible for the fans who planned to go see him the next night in Longview -- a show TR had to cancel because of his illness. No offense to anybody who missed the Longview show, but better you than me.

After the show, my 17-year-old son and aspiring musician/guitar player and I hung around to see if Todd was up to signing autographs. As sick as Todd was, he took the time to sign about 20 autographs and take as many pictures as we wanted. He was genuinely appreciative of us as fans and so unassuming about his greatness. We also had the opportunity to meet Jesse who is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, and Kasim (he signed our Utopia albums as well) who did what Neal Peart can not do. He made us strangers feel like long awaited friends. Kasim is absolutely my second favorite Utopian, and it was a personal thrill to meet him as well.

After taking two pictures and getting four albums signed (Hermit, A bootleg Todd album, Utopia, and Oops Wrong Planet) we floated on the proverbial cloud nine back to the house. I sure hope Todd's illness doesn't scare him off from coming back to Texas soon.

Bill Avey from San Antonio

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3/28/2012 - La Zona Rosa - Austin, TX

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