Notes on Todd Rundgren Show

I saw TR at the HOB in Los Angeles last night and offer some observations- for anyone who might be interested.

IMHO, TR is a masterful songwriter with a giant perverse streak that consistently undermines his chances for wider commercial success. Last night, he offered lots of support for this theory. He made it clear from the start that familiar pop tunes were not in store. Prior to the encore (I had an expiring babysitter and reluctantly missed it in order to stay married) he played only "I Saw The Light" from his "Greatest Hits" list.

Instead the show was a nasty blues/rock guitar showcase. Jesse Gress (Music Editor of Guitar Player), Kasim Sulton and Prarie Prince played a show that plied a triangular patch of musical territory bounded by Mountain on one side and Led Zep and Yardbirds on the others. Never saw the Yardbirds live, but -again IMHO- this show far outpaced any Mountain or Led Zep show I've seen- and I've seen each in their prime a handful of times.

For my taste, the TR/Gress guitar combo was less ostentatious and more compelling than Page's pyrotechnics and more interesting than Leslie West's soloing while every bit as gritty. The music was just tuneful enough (think "Never In My Life") to draw the listener in - while always celebrating the blues in that great Mountain/Yardbirds/Zep fashion. For me, it walked a fine line with bravado and swagger - as good as this king of thing gets.

TR is a wonderful player (he may linger a bit too long at the bottom of the fret board for some tastes) and Jesse Gress' playing was flat out amazing. (I hadn't heard of him til last night). They dueted extensively during a stunnng electric blues work-out (Black and White?) with which I was unfamiliar. More recognizeable fare like Black Maria also stretched into monster guitar displays.

There was pretty much zero hint of TR's beautiful pop craftmanship the entire night. I'm a big fan, and have seen TR before, but this show was an entirely different animal. One of the best nights of pure psycho rock music I can recall.

Then again, the best ones always seem the toughest to recall, don't they?

Glad to hear you had a great Todd show. I'm also a Todd fan - saw him only once - 2 years ago in LA. Show was very bizarre - started out with this anti-religeous rant "Facist Christ" - he was dressed like the pope and all his band was wearing different clerical garb. I'm not religeous but I could see the whole thing being very offensive to some. He has a lot of great songs from his early days - Hermit of Mink Hollow era, Utopia, etc - heard none of these - he played only the last few years of his stuff including his newest album which is on a minor/indie label for probably good reason. There were maybe 2-3 songs that the average fan would have recognized.

I recall saying about 30 years ago that Todd was way ahead of his time - not sure if that is still true. In this show he seemed almost angry at the audience, angry at the world, especially angry at George Bush!! Sure, express you anger, but I want music to be a diversion, not a polemic or rant - I get enough of that watching the news and reading the internet.

I totally respect any musician who wants to keep pushing forward and does not want to dwell on the past or pander to the audience- Todd's talent is that of a great songwriter and I don't think he has much to teach an audience about politics so I would suggest he sticks to what he does best. Reminds me of that old cliche "It's about the music, man."

by the way, how was the sound quality at HOB? I was planning on seeing John Scofield there next sunday - last few times I was at HOB Hollywood the sound was WAY louder than necessary. Took my kid to see the gospel brucnh - he was praying for it to END.
I was a Todd fan supreme during the seventies and as far as I'm concerned he is one of the most underrated songwriters of that decade, period. However, like so many rock artists, they reach a peak of creativity and then they plateau or merely slide into oblivion. Todd is perverse as you stated Martykl, and he sometimes refuses to acknowledge the songs that made him famous....I once saw Frank Zappa turn ugly years ago at a concert. He was pissed at the number of "teeny bops" in the audience screaming what they wanted to hear. He then unleashed two hours of some of the most masterful guitar work I've ever "songs" were played. all improvisation...Dylan did it the best back during the famous 1965 tour...half of what THEY wanted and half into parts unknown.

Sound was very, very good. This kind of show can be unlistenable if the sound is sub-par. I'm pretty confident you'll get a good acoustic for Scofield.

Desoto, I talked to one fan as I left the show and he was sorely disappointed. TR definitely alienated more than one fan last night. I really wanted to hear a bunch of songs he had no intention of playing (he didn't even have a piano on stage) - but I thought he pulled this one off. That, in itself, can be exhilirating. How many shows have you gone to - hoping to heat a dozen songs or so - and, getting to hear none of them, still been blown away. Perverse as he can be, my hat's off to the guy.

the nazz records were influenced by the yardbirds....'a wizard..a true star'

The Nazz records were absolutely the closest Rundgren recordings to the music I heard this show - and that was a loooong time ago.