Concert review: Todd Rundgren

(HollywoodReporter - 368 words - Mon., Nov. 3, 1997)

House of Blues, L.A.
Saturday, Nov. 1
By John Lappen

Was that one olive or two, Mr. Rundgren?

Taking the, by now, overhyped and overdone lounge trend to its inevitable conclusion, Todd Rundgren has become the ultimate space age, bachelor pad hipster. To wit: The pop icon's new Guardian/EMI release, "With A Twist," features 11 of his best known songs redone as lounge homages. But even better, Todd's nearly three-hour performance was a masterful satire, albeit a reverential one, of the entire lounge experience.

With a set constructed to look like a tropical lounge bar on some exotic island locale -- complete with palm trees, tables filled with touristy patrons, a sassy waitress and a bored bartender -- Rundgren and his four-piece band played the part of the weary, done-this-too-many times house band. As his talented quartet broke into a tune oozing with Tiki vibe, Rundgren entered through a beaded curtain dressed in a shiny, loungey-but-not-polyester suit and wrap-around shades.

For the first hour, the Runt entertained with bossa nova versions of Rundgren standards like "I Saw The Light," "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" and "Can We Still Be Friends," playing entirely to his onstage audience instead of the sold out house in the real club. In between, he sipped martinis and reeled off a bunch of cheesy jokes about the people in the faux lounge, inquiring of one couple, "Are you married or just looking to get a room?" It all worked brilliantly, particularly the lending of his pop classics to the primarily bossa nova style in which they were revamped.

Taking a break while a comic came out to tell jokes, make sound effects and fully utilize his suitcase of silly props, Rundgren and band came back for the second set, a much more energized one with Todd dressed in garish native costume and face paint. The songs in this set were a melding of lounge and jazz filtered through Rundgren's trademark Philly soul as his high vocals soared atop the Martin Denny-meets-Marvin Gaye arrangements. As the last "drunk" was evicted from Todd's lounge, he closed with a beautiful rendition of "A Dream Goes On Forever," perfect sentiments for any lounge lizard.