Friday, September 11, 2009


thanks Michele K for finding this

In Todd we trust
By Ross Raihala
Updated: 09/10/2009 12:16:10 PM CDT

Todd Rundgren In 1972, Todd Rundgren released "Something/Anything," an audacious double album of Beatles-esque power pop that produced two big hits, "I Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me," and the promise that Rundgren could become one of the biggest artists of the '70s.

Few could have expected his next move, "A Wizard, a True Star." With its detours into doo-wop and classic soul, psychedelic song fragments and even a cover song from Broadway's "Peter Pan," the album confounded fans and critics. A Rolling Stone review at the time declared it "his most experimental, and annoying, effort to date ... most of it is dreck."

Not only did it derail Rundgren's commercial viability but it also marked the beginning of a decades-long career filled with equally odd, often bewildering artistic choices. And that, Rundgren said, was the whole idea.

"At the time, I was building a career as a record producer and engineer, not so much as an artist," Rundgren explained during a recent phone interview. "A lot of people mistook 'Something/Anything' as some sort of ideal, because it was commercially successful. But for me, there was no challenge to it. I was getting into a formula, and the thought of continuing to write about some relationship I had in high school was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

But a funny thing happened as Rundgren and chart success grew farther and farther apart. "A Wizard, a True Star" found a small but devoted following of fans who appreciated both its jarring twists and its intricate production. Tuesday at the State Theatre, Rundgren will do what once seemed unthinkable — perform the album in its entirety live onstage.
"The reaction to the record at the time was almost universally hostile," Rundgren said with a laugh. "The people at the record label couldn't figure out how to sell it. There were no singles or any considerations for how the music could be broken down. The label said it was tantamount to career suicide, and critics had pretty much the same reaction.

"For me, it was about expressing a kind of musical freedom, to expose myself more honestly to the people who were actually listening to the records. There weren't any easy handles to grab. It required effort to try to figure out what was going on. For me, it reflected what my internal musical world was like. Anyone who thought I was the male Carole King would have to revise that sentiment. I was not going to be comparable to other artists from that point on."

Still, the idea to launch a tour based on the album came not from Rundgren but from a British promoter who noticed a renewed interest in "A Wizard, a True Star" among young electronic and hip-hop musicians, some of whom have gone as far as to sample it in their own music. From there, Rundgren booked a one-off show in Akron, Ohio, with fan reaction turning that single performance into a seven-city U.S. tour.

More dates are likely, Rundgren said, due to the vast amount of work he's putting into the production. In other words, Rundgren and his band won't just stand there and play the album.

"Our recent tours have been very stripped down and incredibly old-fashioned, almost like a traveling medicine show in the Old West," he said. "This is more what I think everyone imagines an A-List artist would do. I'm getting out all the bells and whistles for this, and it's going to be one hell of a production. It's a gamble, because it means renting a larger hall and hiring a larger crew. But hopefully, people will feel like all the rigamarole and the higher ticket price is worth it."

Besides, Rundgren said, the record's fans practically demanded the '70s-style stage show, complete with costume changes and an eye-popping light show.

"Most of my audience has a mental movie they associate with it, and to simply play the music is almost disrespectful of how much they have invested into it," he said. "Everyone working on it with me is suffering from some combination of excitement and heart-stopping anxiety. My biggest challenge, ironically enough, is not remembering the words or hitting the notes. It's trying to get through those eight or nine costume changes."

Even more ironic is how serious Rundgren seems about pleasing his fans when the original record was about pleasing only himself.

"People will crap themselves," Rundgren said with a laugh. "If they do not crap themselves, we will have failed our mission."

What: Todd Rundgren performing his 1973 album, "A Wizard, a True Star." in its entirety, followed by a second set of other songs from his catalog

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
Tickets: $42-$32
Call: 800-982-2787

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