Friday, September 10, 2010

Todd Rundgren lets his fans call the shots

Todd Rundgren lets his fans call the shots
BY DANIEL DURCHHOLZ • Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:00 am | 1 Comment

..If you go: Todd Rundgren
When • 7 p.m. Friday
Where • Roberts Orpheum Theater, 416 North Ninth Street
How much • $33.45-$95.75
More info •

It's not often that an artist — especially one like Todd Rundgren, whose long career has followed a singular and sometimes quirky muse — will step aside and let his audience call the tune.

Yet that's what Rundgren did last year when a poll of his fans indicated that the album they most wanted to see him perform was the eccentric masterpiece "A Wizard, A True Star."

Rundgren obliged, staging a theatrical show spotlighting the disc that he says separated casual fans of his music from the most ardent ones.

"There are people who survived the transition to 'A Wizard, A True Star' and those who didn't," Rundgren says. "But the ones who survived it, those are the ones that have been around through all of my musical history since."

Having gotten their wish with "Wizard," Rundgren's fans went on to request he play more albums in their entirety. This time they want "Todd," a largely experimental work from 1974, as well as the synth-driven "Healing" (1981).

"Todd," originally released as a double LP, includes "A Dream Goes On Forever" and "The Last Ride," gorgeous ballads that have long been concert staples, but also some esoteric instrumental work, sonic experiments and, quite out of nowhere, a Gilbert and Sullivan tune, "Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song."

Rundgren chalks up the album's adventurousness to the fact that before recording "Todd," he'd built a studio in New York City.

"It became this sort of workshop-playpen for us," he says. "We were no longer thinking about what the cost of studio time was. We didn't pay anything except the electric bill."

By the time he made "Healing," Rundgren had moved his studio to upstate New York. The album reflects a period of spiritual and physical exhaustion, he says.

"In the old days, you could buy a ticket on Pan-Am (airlines), and as long as you kept flying in the same direction, you could stop anywhere you wanted," Rundgren says.

"I bought one of those and spent two or three months just traveling around the world, particularly in the Middle East and India and Nepal. I had just been seeking all over the place and trying to expand my understanding of spiritual issues. ("Healing") was me trying to figure out a way to reground myself."

Like the "Wizard" concerts, Rundgren's current tour will feature an expanded lineup of his band as well as costumes and more elaborate staging.

"I look at it more as if we had really gone back to the era and had the resources and the accessibility — just take the entire audience back to the era when the records were actually made, as opposed to just reproducing it."

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