Todd Rundgren: Live Last Night

todd rundgren

Live Last Night

By Patrick Foster

Know why "Almost Famous" isn't a great rock-and-roll movie? Because it never mentions Todd Rundgren. See, Cameron Crowe's flick is set in 1973, and, as everyone knows, that was Todd's year, man. So it was obvious that his recreation of "A Wizard, A True Star," -- his landmark album from that golden year -- at the Strathmore Music Hall Thursday night would be a full-body quake of mind-blowing rock-pop-soul-progressive genius, blending light, sound, costumes and music together in a way that no one other than, well, Todd himself could pull off.

Only it wasn't.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

But it sure tried to be, and Todd deserves credit for an all-out effort. Beyond an accomplished sextet (dressed in white tuxes-n-tails) performing the quick-cut, genre-hopping album, the 61-year-old Rundgren made at least eight costume changes (some from the original "Wizard" tour) and sang himself ragged. And as if that weren't enough, Utopia, his long-running prog-pop side project, opened the show with a 40-minute set that featured many a screeching Rundgren guitar solo.

Unfortunately, only about half of the music was strong enough to support the theatrics. Chiefly an experiment in truncated song structure and studio tomfoolery, "Wizard" did contain some great tunes, and those were naturally the highlights. The opener, "International Feel," (with Todd singing from inside an astronaut suit), was vintage Rundgren, melding soft pop and an anthemic hook. "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel," the Beatlesque "Just Another Onionhead, " and "Zen Archer" (Todd sporting a disturbingly feathery getup that probably should have been left in the attic) were strong as well.

But it was the rest, drivel like "You Need Your Head" and "Flamingo" that kept the set from being truly memorable. To many, it's the same problem that has plagued Todd's entire career: majestic pop rock obscured by self indulgence.

By David Malitz |  September 11, 2009; 3:06 PM ET Live Last Night
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Patrick, Patrick, Patrick.

My guess is you've never tried to learn to play an instrument. It takes that experience to realize how difficult some of the music is that you heard. The two songs you choose to criticize, "You Need Your Head" and "Flamingo" are two of the most complex in rock, including the genre jazz/rock/fusion. And Bobby Strickland's sax solo and the back and forth jam between him and Jesse Gress was incredibly good. It's just incredible that you missed this.

Posted by: shoulette | September 12, 2009 7:36 PM

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