Todd Rundgren: Todd

Invigorating live run-through of Rundgren’s 1974 LP + interview

Following a trend chartered by Heart, Brian Wilson, Slayer, Lou Reed and dozens of others, Todd Rundgren has performed two of his albums live in concert. This DVD (and a separate CD) documents a September 2010 performance of Rundgren’s fifth solo release, the double-album Todd, in his hometown of Philadelphia. When originally released in 1974, Todd followed the direction chartered by A Wizard, A True Star, and pointed to Utopia’s heavier use of synthesizers. The track list mixed progressive-rock pieces and instrumentals with vocal pop songs, and following the delayed commercial success of “Hello It’s Me” (recorded in ’72, but a chart success in ’73), split fan ears between those who enjoyed shorter pop songs, and those who favored longer, more experimental productions.

Without any big chart hits as commercial tentpoles, the album works better in concert than it did on vinyl upon its release. The mix of progressive jams and succinct pop makes for a well-paced show, with the instrumental interludes punctuated by bursts of more easily digested melody and harmony. The material remains remarkably contemporary sounding, particularly the vocal arrangements. Rundgren is terrific, though his vocals are a bit low in parts of the stereo mix. The assembled band includes Jesse Gress, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland and Kasim Sulton, and a children’s chorus is added for the closing “Sons of 1984.” There are a few minor hiccups in the staging (this was an early performance in a short tour), but the group is tight and hits some remarkable grooves, such as on “Everybody’s Going to Heaven.”

The 70-minute stage performance was augmented by laser lights and ornate costumes, and professionally taped with multiple cameras (though, disappointingly, in 4:3 rather than widescreen). The audio is available in both stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The audience listens rapturously from start to finish, carrying the last song’s sing-along refrain for several minutes after the curtain’s closed. All that’s missing to make this a truly complete album performance is the experimental “In and Out the Chakras We Go (Formerly: Shaft Goes to Outer Space),” which was omitted from the tour’s set list.

The disc includes a 78-minute interview (part one of two; the second part to appear on an upcoming live DVD of Healing) conducted the night before the performance by super-fan (and sports commentator) Roy Firestone. Filmed in wide-screen before a live audience, Firestone takes Rundgren through his career via videos, photos, album covers, music snippets and Q&A. They alight on notable people, influences and accomplishments, and Rundgren is forthright (even dishy), full of interesting experiences and a natural storyteller. They’re an hour into the interview, having discussed Rundgren’s extensive work as a producer, before they even get to his own work. This is a terrific package for Rundgren fans, and whether or not Todd is one of your favorite albums, the interview alone is worth the price of admission. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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