Friday, April 10, 2009

Advertisement: Nashville City Paper

Rundgren plucks nostalgia with guitar-dominated music
By: Ron Wynn,

Posted: Friday, April 10, 2009 12:00 am

Todd Rundgren, the legendary producer, songwriter and performer, will appear at The Belcourt at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Before last year's album Arena, famed producer/songwriter/instrumentalist and vocalist Todd Rundgren hadn't done a guitar-based release as a solo performer in many years.

"Well there's a nostalgic element involved with it, which is probably one of the reasons I hadn't done that kind of record in a while," Rundgren said.

But there was a more practical element involved as well.

"I had been working with The New Cars, and we were planning this lengthy tour. Then there was an accident on the road, a key group member got hurt, and I had all this time and wanted to do something with it. So we put together a real guitar-oriented record, and spent eight months on the road doing the songs, and got a really good reaction. Now we're back on the road again, and we're still getting excellent reaction to the music, so I guess it was a good decision."

Rundgren, who'll appear Sunday night at The Belcourt, has produced and played numerous types of pop and rock since his formative days as a member of the Philadelphia blues-rock group Woody's Truck Stop.

And, he's been part of several influential bands: Nazz from 1967-1969, Runt from 1970-1972, and Utopia, which he led in various editions from 1976-1986.

Perhaps the best known of all, Utopia made both synthesizer-heavy progressive rock and fusion and also stripped-down, lighter pop material at different junctures, with such releases as A Wizard, A True Star, Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Oops! Wrong Planet and Oblivion.

Others may recognize him better as a composer, with such songs as "Bang the Drum All Day," "Hello, It's me," "International Feel," and "I Saw the Light" all well known hits.

Then there are those who consider him principally a producer who's supervised an extensive list of recordings and sessions with such bands as The Tom Robinson Band, Hall & Oates, Ian and Sylvia, Patti Smith, The Tubes, Cheap Trick, XTC, The New York Dolls, The Psychedelic Furs, The Band, Steve Hillage, Bad Religion and Badfinger.

"I don't really look at these things as separate or unconnected," Rundgren said when asked which of his many roles he enjoys the most. "I'm an artist who produces and writes. In one sense, it definitely helps as a producer to be a musician. But I don't produce sessions anymore unless I'm asked to come in on the recording. That way, when you make suggestions, they are respected rather than resented.

"It helps when you have a track record, because the musicians want your input, but it's still a question of making suggestions rather than trying to insist on someone doing something in the studio."

Arena features songs written, performed, produced, engineered and mixed by Rundgren at his new home in Hawaii. Besides being environmentally friendly in terms of design and use of energy, it also has a studio he designed and built.

With his current band that includes bassist Rachel Haden, guitarist/keyboardist Matt Bolton and guitarist Jesse Gress, Rundgren is continuing his hectic schedule of touring and producing (A New York Dolls CD he produced is slated for May release).

"We're going to be on the road pretty much most of the year," Rundgren said. "After that, there are a lot of other projects out there. But for now, the focus will be on playing this music from Arena. We really haven't gotten tired of it yet, and are still finding new things to do with it live."

What: An evening with Todd Rundgren
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Belcourt Theatre, 2102 Belcourt Ave.
Cost: $40
Info: 846-3150,

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