Friday, October 10, 2008

REVIEW: Rocker Rundgren returns with new CD, Orange Peel show

With over four decades in the music business as a performer, producer
and digital innovator, Todd Rundgren has never settled into a
particular style. He's had solo hits in the '70s with songs like "I
Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me" and explored experimental synthy
prog-rock territory with the band Utopia. He's also produced albums
for a diverse range of artists from XTC to Meatloaf to Patti Smith to
Cheap Trick. Just two years ago he stepped into the position of Ric
Ocasek to front a touring incarnation of The New Cars.

Last week he released "Arena," a disc of intentionally big rock
songs. Rundgren plays all of the instruments on the album of
bombastic stadium-style anthems, and he has recently put together a
touring band to recreate the disc on a national fall tour, which
visits The Orange Peel on Wednesday.

Question: Tell me about the new album.

Answer: It's a result of the kind of touring I've been doing lately —
much more guitar oriented, not so dependent on synthesizers and other
kinds of sounds. I've discovered that a lot my fans seem to enjoy
that kind of presentation. It takes them back to the old days of when
Utopia was just a fledgling band. A lot of it has to do with the
response I've been getting in recent months and years.

Q: Why did you play all of the instruments on "Arena?"

A: That's something I started doing on my very first solo album.
People associate that type of approach with me. There's a particular
character to a song when one person is doing everything. There are
certain stylistic earmarks, because I play or program all the parts
the way I hear them, as opposed to how another musician might hear

Q: How are the songs translating with a full band?

A: The record just came out this past week, but we've been playing
the tunes at shows since June. I've been surprised how receptive
people have been to material they've never heard before. That's a
measure of success in how this concept is coming together.

Q: You have an extensive discography. How much of it will you cover
at The Orange Peel?

A: We certainly throw in some older material. I even like to mix in
some covers — songs that the audience might not be highly familiar
with. There are songs out there that have been orphaned by their
original bands, so we'll adopt them for a while. We do "Red Rider" by
Lunatic Fringe and "Walls Came Down" by The Call — songs that were
minor hits in their day.

Q: In the future do you expect to do more playing or producing?

A: I don't expect to make a self-conscious change from the variety of
things I've been doing. I've been doing less producing, but that's
more because of global changes in the music industry. Budgets for
recordings are not as great. I made "Arena" entirely on a laptop.
Musicians don't call up producers as often.

Jedd Ferris writes for take5. Email him at

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