Sunday, October 2, 2011

GIG REVIEW: TODD RUNDGREN, HMV Ritz, Manchester oct 1 ,2011

Review by David Randall

Photos by Steve Goudie

TODD RUNDGREN, HMV Ritz, Manchester
1 October 2011

The last few years has seen the great TR-i play to increasing audiences in the UK and we've also had two excellent albums as part of this UK revival: Liars and Arena.

This two-hour show came closest to what might be termed a 'greatest hits' set but as Todd joked if that were really true 'it would only last for about twenty minutes!'

Seemingly aware of his own jittery career trajectory, this set also perhaps emphasised why you really need to be in the TR zone to fully appreciate the man and performer.

Starting out with an energised 'Real Man' and 'Love Of The Common Man' he put on the electric guitar for a wonderful 'Buffalo Grass' but - in spite of evident audience approval for the electric - it was only deployed two or three times tonight.

Whilst you could argue that Todd did guitar-driven rock on his Arena tour in my mind his guitar playing - whilst underrated - has always been one of his greatest strengths and, later on, a longer Philly/soul interlude placed the emphasis on a fine voice but tunes that weren't his own.

No doubt the 'faithful' love him in all his guises but it is often this eclecticism (notwithstanding his prog and psych periods) that leaves some listeners confused. The faithful would no doubt have approved of 'Espresso' from the excellent 'The Individualist' (1995) whilst 'Lost Horizon' from 'A Capella' (1985) was another addition to satiate the insatiable. And, of course, the three tracks from 'Hermit Of Mink Hollow'.

The highlights, though, were real highlights and a long-held revelation that a few tunes from 'Liars' stand up to anything he's produced previously - 'Flaw' and 'Soul Brother' tonight - whilst the 'classics' were just that.

My personal highlight tonight was a song I have never seen him perform live and one of my personal favourites. 'Love Is The Answer' may have been a hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley but was originally performed by Utopia (from whom Kasim Sulton remains in the current band line-up) and of course written by Todd. The song's sentiments are as relevant now as they ever were: a truly wonderful piece of music and I sensed the crowd were delighted too.

After a tentative 'comeback' in the UK, including - frustratingly - a shared tour with Joe Jackson, Todd has ticked the boxes for guitar rock, album rock (A Wizard A True Star in February 2010) and, now, a triumphal 'greatest hits' outing for want of a better descriptor. But four sold-out dates at smaller venues is still not enough and one hopes he returns soon with a new album and a more extensive itinerary, plus of course that shiny acid green guitar.

Set-List: Real Man / Love of the Common Man/ Buffalo Grass/ Kindhearted Woman/ Determination/ Lucky Guy/ Can We Still Be Friends? / Espresso / Love Is the Answer / It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference/ Lost Horizon / Flaw/ Soul Brother/ I'm So Proud / Ooo Baby Baby / La La Means I Love You / I Want You/ Hawking / I Saw the Light/ Courage / Drive / Couldn't I Just Tell You? / Encore: Hello It's Me/ A Dream Goes on Forever


Ronnie O said...

Good review David, nice shots Steve. I was there myself, two sisters, brother, good friend, all in tbe zone! I think you've pretty well pinned it. We all wanted to hear something that didn't come up but we reckon that would be the case for everyone. The energy level was staggering and Todd's voice was as immaculate after two hours as it was when they fired up. Yes, could have had more guitar from him but on the other side the focus on vocal, for me at least, made for superb and at times intense and moving performances of these beautiful pieces. Only wish I could go to the Jazz Cafe gigs - all three. Thank you so much Todd and the whole team for another fantastic live! Love and Blessings Ronnie O.

Andy in Wales said...

I'm frustrated already!
During the last 2 visits TR has been cranking up his axe with distinction much to my total enjoyment. So it is with dismay I read of a setlist not only sparse of guitar-led songs but a Greatest hits set with no less than 5 COVERS in it! And two of the most cringeworthy tracks off Liars to boot. I shall attend the London gig and shall be in bliss merely in His great presence, but Todd... c'mon man... "Flaw" is aptly named and I shall encourage my ladyfriend (whom I'm trying to turn on to Todd)to use this moment for a piss-break. Find me in the bar! peace & love
Andy in Wales

Anonymous said...

My wife & I were at the Ritz too & we thought Todd was brilliant. Yes, you could bemoan the omission of your favourites (in my case, Last Ride, Fidelity, Mated) but with such an enormous & diverse catalogue it's inevitable there will be some missing. His rendition of Hawking was so good it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I've seen him many times & have never been disappointed - even when he played to a tiny audience at a 20% full Manchester Academy in the No World Order era, he put everything in to it - the man is a genius!

greydad said...

Have to agree with anonymous,so many songs to choose from, so little time, but an excellent set in my opinion. To see Lucky Man, Drive, Love Is The Answer, Lost Horizon, Hawking and Determination played live was brilliant,and why shouldn't Todd include some of the great soul classics that were so influential in his development as a musician? My son had never seen Todd live and was amazed at his and the band's power and craftsmanship...I only wish that it was feasible for the Utopia reunion to extend to the UK, but am not greedy..I have managed to see Todd solo or otherwise in each decade since the 70s, and can only hope that he will continue to grace our shores in the years to come...he remains a unique and unparalelled presence in music. Many, many thanks to Todd and the band for another fantastic evening!!!

Andy in Wales said...

You're right, of course... sorry to be a doubting thomas. Expect the unexpected is often the way with TR, and those of us who follow the program are always rewarded. I shall inevitably burst into tears during "Hawking" as I always do.
I have only missed 1 tour since 1975 and pray he never gets rich enough to retire.
Still, pity about "Flaw".