Thursday, September 17, 2009

REVIEW: Rundgren’s performance conceptually innovative

Rundgren’s performance conceptually innovative
Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Todd Rundgren performed his entire 1973 album “A Wizard, A True Star” at the Stamford Palace on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The performance was filmed with multiple cameras after two warm-up gigs in Akron, Ohio earlier in the week. (Courtesy Photo)

Todd Rundgren performed his entire 1973 album “A Wizard, A True Star” at the Stamford Palace on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The performance was filmed with multiple cameras after two warm-up gigs in Akron, Ohio earlier in the week.

Always an innovator, Todd Rundgren is at the forefront of a new industry touring concept: performing a fan-favorite album from start to finish followed by a fistful of greatest hits. It’s a model followed this year by artists as diverse as Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, The Pixies and Aerosmith. Van Morrison has had phenomenal success this year touring a faithful version of his classic “Astral Weeks” album from the 70s.

So, back to Todd Rundgren. His “A Wizard, A True Star” (AWATS) performance in this tidy Stamford venue was remarkably successful. I’d never seen Rundgren perform, but I’ve always admired his production work for bands from Badfinger and The Band to Grand Funk Railroad and XTC. He even produced the background music for the 1986 television series Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

The performance at The Stamford Palace was more or less a Utopia concert with Kasim Sulton (bass) and Roger Powell (keyboards), but it was rounded out nicely by Prairie Prince (drums), former Cars keyboard player Greg Hawkes and veteran Jesse Gress (guitar).

A camera on a robot arm traversed above the band and crowd all evening adding to the overall sensory overload induced by lasers, lights and smoke machines. The performance was filmed for an eventual DVD release and this only added to the air of excitement in the hall.

All of the costume changes and smoke machines in the world, however, wouldn’t make a satisfying show if this wasn’t a band that could deliver the goods. They did, and had the perfect audience who had probably traveled many miles to witness this rare performance. It was originally planned for a London debut that fell through. It seems AWATS is currently being heavily sampled by the kids across the pond.

Bassist Kasim Sulton carried half of the vocal chores all evening and proved to be a perfect foil for Rundgren while playing in a dizzyingly aggressive and singularly propulsive style. Prairie Prince, formerly of The Tubes, lived up to his reputation as one of rock’s premiere drummers.

The AWATS album, especially the first side, is an extended medley after the fashion of the Beatle’s later recordings. The songs, sometimes snippets, run into each other to achieve an hallucinatory effect. Side one has a cover version of “Never Never Land” from Broadway’s Peter Pan, while side two explores what I’m sure are Todd’s radio roots of Doo Wop and blue-eyed soul growing up in the 60s in Philadelphia.

This band, tonight, goes from costumed psychedelia in the first half to doing more than credible versions in the second half of Curtis Mayfield’s “I’m So Proud,” “La La La [Means I Love You],” “Ooh Baby Baby” and a rousing rave-up on The Capitol’s 60s classic “Cool Jerk.”

Rundgren, who celebrated his 61st birthday in June, revels in being on stage and is clearly pleased as he runs through at least eight costume changes in the second set. The musicianship is flawless as the Zappa-like, tinker toy melodies are gleefully assayed by this attenuated group that practically invented the progressive genre with the release of this ground-breaking album in 1973.

The headliner has had a storied career beginning with Woody’s Truck Stop, then Nazz, followed by two solo albums as Runt. All this before helping to shape progressive rock on both sides of the Atlantic with the 1973 release of AWATS and the formation of Utopia.

Todd explained recently in an on-line interview that AWATS is “... not simply a musical presentation, it’s got to be more of a theatrical thing. I think the expectations exceed a typical sort of concert. Also, it’s of an era when, at least with my shows, I think most artists were doing something that was a little bit more production-oriented live.”

Mission accomplished; the show not only included a complete start-to-finish rendition of the 1973 classic but managed to capture a lot of the fun of the freewheeling early 70s. The band was prepared for the intricate workout and were aided by the multiple costume changes and the liberal use of theatrical props throughout the evening.

Bruce Springsteen is preparing a complete run-through of “Born To Run” while Steely Dan and even Devo are taking to the road with similar full album productions. As the economy tightens and promoters seek new angles, expect to see even more of this concept coming soon to a theater near you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

hall and oates on same bill as todd

Hall and Oates pass the savings along to you
Hey, I was psyched enough that Daryl Hall and John Oates were throwing in for the Spectrum's Final Farewell Concert Series. Then I found out that fellow local heroes Todd Rundgren and The Hooters would also be on the bill (though I was sworn to secrecy).

Now comes word that tickets for the October 23 show, dubbed "The Last Call," will be going for the rock bottom, bargain basement price of $4, $5, and $6. The deeply discounted tickets reflect the ticket price of the very first concert held at the Spectrum, the two-day Quaker City Jazz Festival (September 30-October 1, 1967).

Of course, if you feel like dropping a little coin on the show, a limited number of VIP tickets, which include a post-concert reception and a certificate for a commemorative brick from the Spectrum (after the venue closes), will also be available through ComcastTIX. ALL tickets on sale this Saturday (9/19) at 10:00 a.m. exclusively through ComcastTIX.

If you're scoring at home, Hall and Oates have performed six previous times at the Spectrum (first show: December 12, 1977); The Hooters four times (first time: November 26, 1987) and Todd Rundgren only once: April 19, 1980.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

rundgren radio tonight 8:30 pm ET airs TONIGHT 9/15/09 with AWATS talk from Eric Gardner and Nikki Nichols AND a live report from the Minnesota AWATS gig! 8:30pm ET

rundgrenradio pre show awats party 9/5/09

GREAT PIC from park west chicago by JIM SNYDER

click to enlarge.


Todd Rundgren prepares for an all-out spectacle
By Andrea Swensson in Concert Preview, Q&AMonday, Sep. 14 2009 @ 1:25PM
​When Todd Rundgren returns to Minneapolis tomorrow night to play the State Theatre, he's pulling out all the stops. Not only will the concert feature a complete performance of his 1973 masterpiece A Wizard, A True Star, but Rundgren is promising an over-the-top theatrical spectacle with videos, dramatic lighting, and costumes from his original '70s tours. His current tour will only stop in five cities, and all reports indicate that it's going to be a memorable, mind-blowing show.

Tickets for tomorrow night's show are still on sale; visit the Hennepin Theatre Trust website for more information. In preparation for his stop in Minneapolis, Rundgren took a few minutes out of his busy rehearsal schedule to chat with Gimme Noise.

On your current tour, you are playing your record A Wizard, A True Star from start to finish at each show. Where did you get the idea for this project?

It was actually an idea of my British promoter, who was noting the fact that some younger artists, particularly electronic and turntable artists in Europe had discovered the record and were citing it as an influence and using samples off of it. So he thought that mounting an event around the record would be a good way to induce a younger crowd to come check it out.

You just performed the entire album live for the first time last week in Ohio. What was that experience like?

It was more than just doing the record, or the show that now accompanies the music. It was more like some sort of homecoming. Apparently they haven't had this many people show up in Akron in the last 30 years for any sort of event. We almost completely took over the town. [laughs] There was so much good will behind the whole thing that we almost could do wrong, regardless of what actually did go wrong -- and there were a lot of things that went wrong. It's one of those things that by the time we've got it all right, it's going to be nearly done. We'll be technically proficient at it for the next time that we go out. For this tour we have so many aspects to address that aren't usually in my productions -- we've got video projection, special effects lighting, things like that, as well as the dozen or so costume changes that I have to undergo under the course of an hour's worth of music.

Wow, a dozen costumes?

Well it wouldn't really work to simply play the music. Most of the people who are familiar with the record have sort of a mental movie that accompanies it. It's not the same for everybody, but the music evokes imagery, just naturally. And so I have to theatricalize it, in order to meet those expectations. If all we did was play it, it would be far less entertaining than if it's acted out as well.

Is it true that some of the costumes are from the original 1973 tour?

Yeah, we had some in our possession, and then we put out a call to the fans -- I had an estate sale a couple years ago when I moved away from Woodstock, and a lot of costumes were bought by fans. So we essentially put out a call and recovered some of them, and refurbished the ones that we had. So some of them are original costumes from back in the mid-'70s. And some don't fit anymore, and I can't possibly wear them. [laughs]

I read a review of the Akron show that said that you also played an opening set with your Utopia bandmates. Will you be playing Utopia songs at the Minneapolis show?

We're not calling it Utopia -- we don't want to raise people's expectations to that point. It's just because Roger [Powell] and Kasim [Sulton] are in the A Wizard, A True Star orchestra, and the A Wizard, A True Star album is only an hour's worth of music, so we had to have some sort of opening act. And since the three of us were there, we thought well, we know this music, it's music we don't have to learn from scratch, let's be our own opening act and play some Utopia songs because people like to hear those songs.

In the process of revisiting an album that was made over 35 years ago, are you tempted to tweak the songs, or do you try to stay faithful to the recording?

We've tried to remain as faithful as possible. I went back and essentially deconstructed the original master tapes so that we could see what all was going on in the chaos. And discovered a lot of stuff. Now it isn't possible for us, with only six people in the band, to cover every single sound that was made, but we have covered all the significant aspects of it. There was never any concept of rearranging them or anything like that. They're difficult enough to learn in their original form. And that's been the challenge for the week of rehearsal that we had before the first gig.

You were quoted recently as saying that A Wizard, A True Star was the beginning of your "real career as a musician." Can you explain that further?

I was always something of an experimentalist in the studio, and included some of these weird little asides even on my previous records, but most of the content of my previous records was me trying to find myself as a songwriter and singer, and it involved a lot of imitation of other artists, in a way. But mostly of the kind of popular song form that everyone was working in. I began to realize that this was an arbitrary limitation, and that I wasn't taking advantage of the other possibilities of, first of all, what could be placed on an LP, on a vinyl record, and also what could be done in the studio. So I determined that I was going to build my own studio to record this record, and then I consciously started deconstructing all of my habits, my songwriting habits and such. So what the album eventually represented was a more accurate view of who I really was, musically. I was no longer attempting to imitate other people all the time. I was certainly paying homage to a lot of my influences still during that record, but basically I felt that I had made some sort of a breakthrough in getting my personality down into the grooves. From that point on, I felt like I was more on my own path and less on the path that everyone else was on. And anyone who was my fan from that point on, they were more truly familiar with me and what I was trying to do.

That seems like it could be a rough transition, venturing out on your own. Were you nervous to make such a big change?

No, I never thought about that. The advantage that I had was that I was producing a lot of records for other people, and that was my living. So when I made my own records, I didn't have to have the same sort of economic considerations that a lot of other artists had to factor into their records. A lot of the artists would have to fear that the record would not sell enough or would not have a single on it to promote it. And those things never occurred to me. [laughs] I didn't have to be afraid of [my records] failing. I only had to be afraid of them failing in terms of my own vision.

As your music has evolved over the years, I imagine that critics have labeled you a lot of different things.

No. Because it's so confusing, what I do, that the critics don't bother to keep up with it. Critics don't really like to have to review my records. They don't have the measuring tools they need. Most of my records are pretty much ignored, critically. And that doesn't bother me either. I realize that I've got my audience, and the way that I'm going to increase my audience is to continue to play to my audience. And they'll go out and do the work of finding other listeners. The same way that you've been indoctrinated by your dad. [laughs] Now it's become trans-generational. There's a lot of younger fans showing up because they've been infected by their parents.

RRHOF bog about todd

Blog Home About the Rock Hall
September 14 2009
Todd Rundgren Unveils His New Spotlight Exhibit and Meets with Fans

Hundreds of fans line up to meet Todd Rundgren and members of Utopia at the Rock Hall.
Labor Day was an exciting day for Cleveland and the Rock Hall. Todd Rundgren came to town to kick off the first two dates of his A Wizard / A True Star album tour. While in town, he also wanted to come by the Museum for the unveiling of his new spotlight exhibit which features a number of artifacts to tell the story of his career, including his Back to the Bars stage outfit and Patti Smith’s “Star Fever” poem, which was included in the first issues of A Wizard / A True Star. In addition to seeing his exhibit, Todd took time to see and meet his fans.

It was an exciting time in the Museum for fans to see an artist up close and an incredible amount of people stopped in for a photo and autograph. It’s hard to really capture the excitement of the people who came to the Rock Hall from all around the world to meet Todd Rundgren.

Along with Todd were his two of his band mates from Utopia, Kasim Sultan and Roger Powell, and his wife Michelle and son Rebop. Todd spent over an hour greeting his fans, taking photos and signing autographs. Following the signing, he did an interview on Sirius XM from our Alan Freed studio with Dusty Street.

Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Rock Hall (right), poses with Todd Rundgren in front of his exhibit.
The event finished with Todd spending time at his exhibit, which has been a long time coming but worth the wait for an artist with such a great catalog of music and who has been on the cutting edge of digital recording and technology. We hope to welcome Todd back to the Museum in the near future to take part in our award-winning education programs.

It was fabulous that we had assistance of so many of Todd Rundgren and Utopia fans, especially Raquel M. Concepcion, that helped put this exhibit together. I hope that all of his fans make time to come to Cleveland and see this exhibit along with all of the other great exhibitions at the Rock Hall.

Monday, September 14, 2009

live from daryl's house via roger's great site trconnection..

The "A WIzard, A True Star" tour ends its US run tomorrow night in Minneapolis, MN. If you haven't been seeing the news about it, check out reviews and pictures at beginning with the September 5 Rundgren Radio Birthday Bash. More pictures and reviews are being added as they come in, so keep checking it.

Will there be additional AWATS show in the US? No one knows for certain right now. Just keep chanting, "but there's more, there's always more" and maybe another journey to Never Never Land will occur. Time will tell.

Fans will also recall that Todd recorded a session with Daryl Hall for his "Live From Daryl's House" web site. That session begins airing beginning tomorrow, 9/15. Check it out at

See you on the Road to Utopia.

Roger D. Linder, The TR-i Fan Formerly known as RDL22

video: chicago NUTOPIA playing the IKON

article wizard todd

live AWATS set list

todd has changed the setlist of the original songs slightly. i really think it works great.

interview : the Quietus

Todd Rundgren Interview: Talking With The Wizard & True Star

The Quietus , September 14th, 2009 09:55
'Hello, it's me' booms the voice from dreamy Hawaii 7000 miles via a flimsy phoneline to the damp and rainy Hackney. I'm speaking to the wizard, the true star himself, Mr Todd Rundgren; a John Cassavetes of music, if you will, tirelessly doing whatever it takes to finance the next leap of musical ingenuity, be it through producing Meat Loaf, XTC or The Band, collaborating with The Residents or simply adding a twist of happiness to PeeWee's Playhouse.

It's been a busy few years that's seen Todd join up for a tour with The Cars, write a stadium rock long-player called Arena and produce old sparring partners The New York Dolls in recording sessions he compares to 'herding cats'. Mr Rundgren now looks back and ponders over the making of A Wizard, A True Star, which he is taking on the road in the forthcoming months. Wizard, his fourth solo effort, made headlines, and divided opinions on the man they used to call Runt. Todd tells us why.

You're not known for your love of nostalgia, so what makes you want to play A Wizard, A True Star in its entirety, live

I'm not a big fan of nostalgia but I'm something of a fan of challenges. I've played bits of A Wizard, A True Star in other contexts but never really made an attempt to do the whole thing. I look at it as not so much of a musical challenge as a theatrical one. Once you get around to doing it everyone's completely familiar with the music anyway. With an album like this I believe that people have lots of images in their head that go along with the music. It would be a more interesting presentation if we focused on that aspect as opposed to simply trying to be musically accurate with it.

The recordings of A Wizard, A True Star were fuelled by a new found love of psychedeli c drugs. Please tell me how much of an impact the drugs had on your music and on your life in general back then?

They didn't have a principle effect on the music. It wasn't like I suddenly threw away everything that I was doing before and decided that I was going to play the music of my mind. I'd actually been through an experience like that. I had been in a band in the 60s and they all discovered drugs and decided to completely change the music they were playing, so I'd realized that such is possible but it didn't affect me in that way. But it did allow me to objectivise a little bit more the way that I wrote music, the subject matter that I was dwelling on and I realised to actively put some of that away and to absorb new ideas and to also hear the final product in a different way. Getting away from those kind of formulaic song-writing methodologies. A lot of it was a result of Something Anything?, me listening to the record afterwards and going 'well, that was pretty much the same chorus just transposed around and you're still singing about that girl who screwed you over in high school' and realising that I was way beyond that by then and probably onto some other girl breaking my heart. I thought I'm not investing myself as an artist and I'm doing this more out of craftsmanship than anything else and that would be fine, it's just not why I got into music.

Around the time of A Wizard, A True Star Todd the loner turned into a full-on scenester. You started dating supermodel Bebe Buell and frequented fashionable hang-outs like Max' Kansas City. What made this shift occur?

It wasn't anything unusual. I'd been a 'hangarounder' for quite a while, it was just that Max's became the place. Previous to that it was Steve Paul's The Scene which was probably the equivalent to the Speak Easy in London. Whenever a new act came over from anywhere they had to play at The Scene. I essentially almost lived there; I would go there every night because of the musical associations that it created. I t was a whole different kind of milieu in those days - the only important thing was music. Nobody gave a shit about movie stars, nobody gave a shit about TV stars. The only stars were musicians.

Eventually Max's Kansas City started having live music, on the second floor. Steve Paul's The Scene closed down so Max's Kansas City became the place to see people. I saw the Wailers first gig there, in a tiny little room that held maybe a hundred odd people. I saw Iggy Pop in there and just about everybody. It was just a hip place to play, it didn't matter how small it was. And this evolved essentially into the New York Scene, it didn't have its own musical scene until around the era of just around A Wizard, A True Star and Utopia and that sort of stuff which was moving in one direction. And then the New York Dolls and The Ramones and all the other bands of that ilk appeared, moving in the other direction.

One of your early supporters, Patti Smith, who wrote the sleeve notes for A Wizard, A True Star, probably wasn't all that well known yet at that point

That's right, Patti had just moved into the city from New Jersey. We were both about the same age and I met her actually at a coming-up party for Johnny Winter who'd just been discovered. Patti was there and I was there and neither of us was with anybody and we were both incredibly bored but it must've been something about the New Jersey and Philadelphia vibe, we just kind of started talking and hit it off and started hanging around a lot together. At the time she was living with Robert Mapplethorpe who also had yet to become really famous, he was photographing more conventional things at the time. She was writing with Sam Shepherd then and she was a poet, principally. She would also do one woman shows that would be combinations of poetry readings and other little performances, she would sing songs, she might sing along to a 45 and then she would just go off freeform. Patti was really electric and I was kind of surprised when she w ent into music. I understood it but in a way it sort of obliterated and obfuscated a whole lot of other stuff that she did, in my mind.

Another of your fans, rather tragically, was John Lennon's killer Mark Chapman. He claimed to have received secret messages through the Wizard artwork, to kill. What do you know about that?

Well, there actually were secret messages on the artwork but I don't know what they mean because the artist who painted it put them in there. He had this little language that he invented and there are these sort of rhythm like things coursing through the artwork, there's this runic sort of stuff in there. I think it was secret love messages to his girlfriend or something like that, nothing really earth-shattering. He never explained to me what they really meant so I wouldn't know. I just pretty much saw a painting of his in a gallery window and I liked the combination of this sort of old classical style with a bizarro symbolically almost Dali-esque symbology. I also liked the way he drew two perspectives at once, the front perspective and the profile at the same time. The whole thing to me just represented graphically what I was going for musically and I sat for him for a couple of sessions and he essentially just painted it and I didn't instruct him at all what it was supposed to resemble. So whatever Mark Chapman was reading wasn't coming from me, it was coming from the artist, Arthur Wood. And, quite obviously, it's in the eye of the beholder, it isn't any real thing.

Talking about production, you recently produced the New York Dolls' new album. What was it like, after 30 odd years since you produced their debut album, to work with those guys again?

Well obviously it was a lot more mellow but beyond that I was only working with two of the guys, the other three are different people. Generally it was a much more musical experience for me than the original one - that was like herding cats, trying to get everyone onto the same page long enoug h to get a take. I suppose that was the appeal of it, the barely in control aspect of it, but capturing that isn't an easy task and doesn't have a whole lot to do with music, it has to do with crowd management and other sorts of things like pushing the button at the right time. There weren't a whole lot of suggestions to be made except 'the band fell apart in the chorus', or whatever, which should have been obvious to everyone, really. This time around it was much more about the music, even about trying to get a proper performance that captures the essence of the band. And we were able to, in New York Dolls terms, do more unusual music because there was no attitude, we only had the new material to worry about. And because of their enhanced experience is was really pretty interesting, the fact they'd been around and done so much, particularly David Johannson, he'd gone through several incarnations, he actually has some interesting things to say and to write about, that a twenty year old may not have.

Current bands like Simian Mobile Disco, Daft Punk and Hot Chip, to name a few, are all outspoken fans of A Wizard, A True Star. What, in your opinion, gives the album it's lasting appeal?

It's really hard to say. When it first came out it was roundly considered an overt act of career suicide. It may be that, in its own way, it's as different still as it was then from a more conventional approach to making records. The idea that a musical fragment is as valid outside of a conventional setting as it would be within. When it came out, singles were very important and they still are, a song that is essentially three to four minutes long has a certain form to it. But if that's all that music was, it wouldn't be a very interesting format to work in and I suppose anything that's a testament to other ways of approaching music plays part in what keeps the form vital, what keeps it from becoming stagnant.

Todd Rundgren performs the British Premiere of A Wizard, A True Star at the HMV Londo n Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday 6th February 2010. Box Office: 08700 603 777. Book Online at Seetickets