Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: Todd Rundgren hits mark revisiting classics

Review: Todd Rundgren hits mark revisiting classics
Saturday, April 2, 2011 12:54 AM
By Curtis Schieber

For The Columbus Dispatch
Todd Rundgren revealed more than a little of the trials of making rock 'n' roll for more than 40 years to an adoring crowd in the Southern Theatre last night by revisiting two old records, 1974's Todd and 1981's Healing in their entirety.

The first found the multi-instrumentalist, studio wiz, songwriter and singer beginning to ponder the traps and illusions of nearly a decade of hit-making, examining what Joni Mitchell called the "star-maker machinery behind the popular song."

Healing displayed not only the length of Rundgren's musical reach but his probing spirituality. The oddball Golden Goose provided brief comic relief to the message of self-determination, introspection and spiritual enlightenment that permeated the second half of the night.

Both albums found renewed resonance last night. The first, because the album originally about the composer's commercial and artistic ascent offers perspective on a career more recently on a plateau; the second, because there is more than enough international suffering today to provoke deep personal introspection.

Although Rundgren seemed to glean more meaning from Healing, Todd was an unbridled pleasure. An Elpee's Worth of Toons lampooned his role in the pop-music factory, although a younger audience might have missed the "LP" reference. A Dream Goes on Forever not only celebrated innocence lost but highlighted the paucity of such indelible melodies in today's charts. Surprisingly, the singer seemed to recall the hilarious, rapid-fire lyrics of Gilbert and Sullivan's Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song, accurately 37 years-on.

A couple more songs showed Rundgren and his band's ability to jam hard on the composer's twist of '60s blues-rock vital as ever. Rundgren matched guitarist Jesse Gress on screaming solos injected throughout the show.

Healing displayed not only the length of Rundgren's musical reach but his probing spirituality.

The persistence of the message occasionally wore its welcome thin: Accompaniment from the fresh-faced Hocking College chorus elicited a near-Up With People moment during the Healing suite; Rundgren's free-range pacing while singing with head-set and no instrument suggested a motivational speaker.

Thankfully, the complexity of his music, the passion in its delivery and the sincerity of his performance eclipsed such criticism. In fact the Healing suite and its choral accompaniment provided the evening's most-powerful passages and best evidence for the program's wisdom

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