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.