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Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Sorry State...

Todd Rundgren’s career has occasionally been characterized by unexpected musical left turns. He's creatively migrated from the wistful balladeer of “Hello it’s Me” to the fusion-leaning leader of Utopia V1, and then on to the creator of harder rock with the latter Utopia followed by a return to solo experimentation. So it was really no surprise when Rundgren announced a new turn with the impending arrival of State, a journey into electronica. What was surprising was the totally lackadaisical, technically-deficient performance given by Rundgren at Philadelphia’s Trocadero last night.

Ensconced upon a high platform center stage, with ex-Tubes drummer Prairie Prince manning an e-kit stage right and flanked to the left by long-time tour guitarist Jesse Gress, Rundgren stood surrounded by electronics and one electric guitar. Over his head a microphone hung down, and prominent lighting rigs constantly shot beams of color into the crowd.

Todd towers over the Trocadero.

Rundgren opened with the first track on State, “Imagination.” It’s a curious song for an album that is described by its creator as electronica - a heavy, lumbering rock song that brought the most focus to the evening. Thereafter, as Todd attempted to propel himself into something resembling the current dance world, it was one embarrassing moment after another. A number of shows into the tour, Rundgren seemed to have little feel for what he was attempting to convey. A lack of communication with Prairie Prince was obvious, while Gress’ playing was far more assured than Rundgren’s tentative and only-occasional guitar work. Rundgren also seemed to be having continual difficulty with his main vocal microphone. Worse by far was the fact that, a number of shows into the tour, Rundgren seemed to have little control over his own electronics, which were responsible for the bulk of the sound. Parts stopped or started at inappropriate times, and a common sight last night was Rundgren bent over, staring through his sunglasses at one recalcitrant device or another.

Kraftwerk is often criticized for cold and unfeeling performances. I disagree, but I think everyone who has heard them would agree that their precision is unwavering. Had last night’s Rundgren show been one by Kraftwerk, heads would have been rolling in Düsseldorf.


Anonymous said...

Hi Frank...Wife of Chris Tracey here. I have NEVER left a concert early...last night was a nightmare. I have buyers remorse! It was totally my fault for not reading up on what Todd's been doing lately, but that was just WRONG. And it was about a 1/2 step above a high school musically in terms of the technical difficulties. Did you see when Todd picked up his guitar, played for about 30 seconds, put it down and it kept playing? And how about the encore with no musicians? I'm so glad you posted friend and I seemed to be the only people in the crowd who were in the dark...we just kept looking at each other thinking we were dreaming.

Britt Justice said...

Frank, (sadly) uou nailed it. Saw TR in Cincinnati last night and it was a disappointment. The songs are weak, and he experienced similar 'technical difficulties' here. One of the great characteristics of Rundgren is that he rarely gets into musical ruts and likes to experiment. But for this disc, and this tour, I felt he was phoning it in.

Unknown said...

worst show i've ever been to......
total friggin rip-off


Anonymous said...

Whilst working and enjoying some 70’s music from Todd Rundgren in the process, I can’t help but wonder why there hasn’t been an official excuse from Todd or his management for the atrocious disaster that took place in “Paradiso” in Amsterdam last tuesday (though I’m convinced that he would prefer the term concert).
A concert however is what I define as a collection of musical pieces played by one or more artists before a live crowd, in some way of mutual understanding.
Furthermore it would be preferable if the artist involved would show at least a hint of respect towards the crowd, people who (despite financial mayhem) paid good money to go and see him and therefore can’t be blamed for having high expectations.
Yesterday was a whole different ball game all together as the music was simply replaced by sheer noise at a decibel rate that was hard enough to remove my kidney stones without any surgery.
And where noise takes over it’s very hard to distinguish any lyrics.
Todd tries to compensate this by ways of some sort of sign language but just turning the volume down a bit would have made a world of difference.
The playlist consisted of 90 pct new material from his freshly released “ State” album in different styles from heavy metal to hard style dance to heavy funk but all with one thing in common, the ear splitting noise!
On top of this both the accompanying “drummer” (electronic drum kit, please don’t ever do that again!!!) and guitar player where there almost entirely for stage filling as 80 pct of the music came from Todd’s impressive notebook collection.
Most appalling to me however was the complete lack of respect from Mr. Rundgren towards the fans who did show up, all together something between 4 and 500, a number which initially surprised me.
It was right after the show (unlike lots of people my friend and I, for reasons I can’t still comprehend, decided to stay until the end ) I realized that those who didn’t come were completely right and if we would have done our homework we could have spared ourselves a lot of money and time.
When he came back on his own for an encore we were confident he would play some of his old hits and he did.
Unfortunately he decided to do it in a most painful medley of 3 hits, all in a sickening dance variation which left to little to enjoy.
Only 1 star out of 5 for me and that would be for myself for actually sit out the whole show.
If Todd is willing to apologize for Tuesday’s mishap I could be bothered to make that 2 stars but knowing him he probably doesn’t give a rats ass about what other people feel.
The poor turnout yesterday suggests that it could proof to be useful for him if he for once took notice of his critical fans, and a fan I still am, though next time I will simply take out my copy of “ Something/Anything?” and think twice about buying concert tickets.