Todd never ceases to amaze his fans and critics on pushing himself into another realm of music. His latest tangent, State -- a techno-dance twist of vaguely familiar Todd sounds -- was on display at Bogart's in Cincinnati, and despite the technical mishaps that seem to plague Todd at this venue, the crowd soldiered through it, revved up by the anticipation of yet another new concept from the prolific Rundgren. The night, however, was yet another collection of musical genius from composer-musician-producer-performer and now DJ-esque Todd that carried the show and literally moved his fans gracefully into his next thing.
Flanked by Prairie Prince on a digital drum kit and a headphoned Jesse Gress on guitar, Todd and company were propped by backtracking on the entire set list, which included Worldwide Epiphany, Secret Society and a rousing rendition of Truth, in addition to the new cuts: Collide A Scope, Serious, Sir Reality, Imagination, a wonderfully soulful Ping Me and a crowd-moving Party Liquor. A smooth light show featuring dense laser-like beams helped effect a clubby vibe, which Todd added to with his handheld flashlight, anointing the appreciative standing general admission crowd with laser-thin columns of colored light.
Center stage with digital command centers on either side of him, Todd early in the show looked less like a Wizard A True Star and more like the frazzled Wizard of Oz, curtain pulled back, flailing at the controls. The group extricated themselves from the major technical glitches that included several restarts on Worldwide Epiphany, some double clutching on Collide A Scope, and Todd's uncooperative guitar on Secret Society. After a restart, Todd handed off the guitar duties to Jesse, who during the computer foul ups was left to direct Prairie on synching back up with the pre-recorded music.
Todd could not hide his frustration with the miscues, but his stage presence was never more engaging, as he lighted on the short riser, arm-danced with the overhead mic, swinging it in and out of play in a practiced way, and used hand gestures that were nearly as expressive as his soulful singing (see Temptations meets American Sign Language interpreter).
My personal new favorites were his rendition of the ballad Ping Me, and the irrepressibly playful Party Liquor, which did, as directed by the lyric, have the crowd putting their "Hands in the Air," if not dancing. Mind you, Todd fans aren't necessarily accustomed to grooving to the techno dance beat, but, then again, Todd fans aren't accustomed to anything from one album to the next. What they ARE used to is another jolt to the musical status quo and another stretch of their musical consciousness by the ageless rocker.
Never one to dwell on his past successes, Todd has once again coaxed his fans to follow along on his journey of musical exploration. But this time he wants you to not merely listen and tap your toes, but to get up and dance -- or at least, put your hands in the air.