OK, so I’m a little biased, because I am a fairly hardcore fan and have seen him in concert in various countries 20-something times.
I have been rather spoilt too, having been one of only a couple of hundred Toddheads lucky enough to watch the debut performance of his 2008 album, Arena, on his 60th birthday, sitting in a deckchair in Rundgren’s backyard. In Hawaii. As you do.
A renowned producer (Hall & Oates, XTC, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, Shaun Cassidy, Badfinger, Dragon and of course Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell), Rundgren has also released records with psychedelic 60s Anglophiles, Nazz and 70s Prog-Rockers, Utopia, as well as a couple of dozen solo albums, including the critically-acclaimed A Wizard A True Star and Something/Anything. His latest, State, came out earlier this year and saw Rundgren producing and playing all the instruments on it. Recently he has been touring it in the U.S.A.
Tonight, however, was a stateless affair. Instead we were treated to nearly two hours of principally better-known Todd Rundgren songs from his 45-plus year career.
The last time Rundgren played a headlining show in Melbourne was October 2010. He was under contractual obligation and performed a set that consisted of mainly Blues legend Robert Johnson compositions. “I had to throw in Can We Still Be Friends”, he reminded the crowd this evening. That song was the biggest Australian hit he ever had, reaching a respectable number eight, almost 35 years ago to the day.
There seemed to be a few slight technical hitches tonight and Rundgren at times appeared a touch annoyed. “It’s been a heck of a day. We’re still in soundcheck mode”. Laughing, he added, “But a loud guitar will solve anything!”.
Before introducing Flaw, a track that liberally drops the M-bomb, he half-jested, “There was a lot of profanity today. You’re only getting the tip of the iceberg,” and tried to encourage the initially somewhat shy crowd to yell the inappropriate word out during appropriate moments in the song.
Backing him in Australia are long-time cohorts and talented bandmates, Kasim Sulton (Utopia, Meat Loaf) on bass, Jesse Gress on guitar and Prairie Prince (Journey, The Tubes) on drums. Filling in on keys is John Ferenzik (Jefferson Starship).
The polymathic Rundgren (who is in remarkable shape for a man who has just celebrated his 65th orbit around the sun) delighted the audience with a jolly mix of styles ranging from Power Pop (I Saw The Light) to Rock (Determination) to Ballad (Love Is The Answer) to Bossa Nova (his own remake of It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference and his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You) to Blue-Eyed Soul. He finished the first part of the classic Soul covers medley from A Wizard A True Star, I’m So Proud/Ooh Baby Baby, to rapturous applause.
Technical hiccups aside, the lucky punters at TRAK in Melbourne enjoyed every minute of a magnificent show from one of music’s greatest geniuses.
The setlist from July 19, 2013 at TRAK, Melbourne was:
- Real Man (from Initiation, 1975)
- Love Of The Common Man (from Faithful, 1976)
- Buffalo Grass (from One Long Year, 2000)
- Kindhearted Woman Blues (from Johnson, 2010)
- Determination (from Hermit Of Mink Hollow, 1978)
- Lucky Guy (from Hermit Of Mink Hollow, 1978)
- Can We Still Be Friends (from Hermit Of Mink Hollow, 1978)
- Espresso (All Jacked Up) (from The Individualist, 1995)
- Love Is The Answer (from Utopia’s Oops! Wrong Planet, 1977)
- It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference (from With A Twist…, 1997)
- Lost Horizon (from A Cappella, 1985)
- Flaw (from Liars, 2004)
- Soul Brother (from Liars, 2004)
- I’m So Proud/Ooh Baby Baby (from A Wizard A True Star, 1973)
- I Want You (from With A Twist…, 1997)
- Hawking (from Nearly Human, 1989)
- I Saw The Light (from Something/Anything?, 1972)
- Courage (from Arena, 2008)
- Drive (from The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, 1982)
- Couldn’t I Just Tell You (from Something/Anything?, 1972)
- Hello It’s Me (from Something/Anything?, 1972)
- A Dream Goes On Forever (from Todd, 1974)