The lights came on in a cozy little bamboo Hawaiian bar on the Odeon stage Monday night.
Two bartenders came in, dusted off the chairs and lit little candles on the tables. Eight guests, chosen beforehand, were ushered to their tables.
Loud screams from the audience greeted the "Wizard of Woodstock" - Todd Rundgren - as he sat on a high stool in front of his four-man band and sang his 1972 hit, "I Saw the Light". He followed it up with "Influenza", "Can We Still Be Friends" and "Fidelity".
But there was something missing. All of the songs were done in an easy bossa nova beat. Pleasant, but after a while the songs sounded too much alike. The score so far: The scenery, A; the song, C.
But Rundgren is like the weather. Wait a while, and he changes. He is the one who has done everything from dancing on a piano at Front Row to putting on an interactive show with floating ballons at Grays Armory.
He led off the second segment of the show with a rousing "Individualist", dancing around the stage barefoot. Then came one of the stunners of the show. How many men could pull off "Real Man", his 1975 song, dressed in a yellow and black skirt? He jumped up and down and swayed back and forth, his voice closer to it's natural tones on this one.
Few would have recognized his closer, though, "Hello, It's Me". The different arrangement came through as soft and evanescent. But it was intriguing.
The topper in the third segment, "Born to Synthesize", gave the superb band a chance to shine, wth keyboard player John Ferenzik in his "Silk City" T-shirt leading off, followed by bassist Kasim Sulton, once a member of Utopia, guitarist Jesse Gress and Prairie Prince of Jefferson Starship and the Tubes fame on the drums.
Rundgren, now dressed in a plain black suit, did a soulful take on Marvin Gaye's "I'm So Proud", before tetruning to the bossa nova beat in "Dream Goes on Forever".
Nothing wrong with bossa nova, but a little goes a long way. Comedian Tom Simmons was game, even without any crowd encourgement. He was suppose to talk to the little audience on the stage rather than the packed Odeon crowd, in keeping with the intimate bar theme.
The show's ending was intriguing, too. The Hawaiian bar shtick was carried out with a female guest (hair stylist, Laura Latterner of Garfield Heights) rebuffing a drunk at the bar. The drunk stumbles, the band leaves and the bartenders slowly turn out the lights. All in all, a fine show.