Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photograph by Ted Were
The ever-versatile Todd Rundgren started his Egg set as a rocker, working the stage from side to side and dramatically waving his arms to conduct his four-piece backing band during the opening combo of “Real Man” and “Love of the Common Man.” He looked like a rocker, too, in dark shades, tight black pants, Beatle boots and two-tone colored hair that matched his black blazer with white piping.
But rock and roll was just the start of the two-hour performance, which touched upon blues and then got heavy into soul before coming full-bore back to rock and pop before the night was done. No matter the style – and despite the empty seats in the wings of the Hart Theatre – the show was a non-stop delight.
Rundgren was charming and witty in a goofy sort of way; his song selection a glorious retrospective of hits and lesser known tunes spanning his four decades and more as an unpredictable and wildly eclectic solo artist. And his band – featuring drummer Prairie Prince (of the Tubes) and longtime collaborators Jesse Gress on guitar, Kasim Sulton on bass and John Ferenzik on keyboards – was cracking.
“I need to cool down a little. The only way to do that is with a lovely soothing tale of woe,” Rundgren joked after his opening rock and roll volley before launching into a Robert Johnson blues number, “Kind Hearted Woman.” Bathed in a misty yellow light, he then sat center-stage on a stool for a solid third of the performance but didn’t exactly slow down, using theatrical hand gestures to animate “Lucky Guy,” simulating a caffeine-induced freak-out on “Espresso,” and shaking maracas to “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” his hurt-feelings, ‘70s yacht-rock masterpiece.
“Time for the sitting is over. Time for the standing and geeking about has begun,” joked Rundgren in a faux-German accent as he stood and swayed and danced along in a white-boy soul groove to “Soul Brother” and then to a masterful medley of great soul love songs from Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. He strapped on a guitar for “I Saw the Light” and fully rocked out to the marvelous “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” joining his guitarists in coordinated leg-kicks at the front of the stage.
Rundgren threw his guitar pick into the crowd before coming back for an encore of two of his best known and sweetest pop ballads, “Hello It’s Me” and “A Dream Goes On Forever,” to end the night.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “…this was Rundgren’s show, and he was more than happy to ham it up. ‘Buffalo Grass’ saw the multi-instrumentalist pick up his guitar for the first time, punctuating the song’s anthemic choruses with the first of several memorable, snarling solos. He continued on guitar for the next two numbers, reaching an early peak on a rough and loose jam of Robert Johnson’s ‘Kind Hearted Woman.’ After the upbeat ‘Determination,’ the set hit a lull, with Rundgren proceeding to sit on a stool for the next few numbers. Perhaps all the jumping around in the early part of the set tired him out, but the performances remained strong for the most part. ‘Lucky Guy’ found Rundgren finally unleashing his vocal prowess to its full potential, while the bouncing ‘Espresso’ brought the energy level in the room to a simmer, stool or no stool. The only disappointment — relatively speaking — came on ‘Can We Still Be Friends,’ which felt a bit tossed off compared to the ferocious performances that followed.”
TODD RUNDGREN SET LIST
Love of the Common Man
Kind Hearted Woman (Robert Johnson)
Can we Still Be Friends
Love Is the Answer
It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference
Soul Medley: I’m So Proud (Curtis Mayfield)/Ooh Baby Baby (Smokey Robinson)/I Want You (Marvin Gaye)
I Saw the Light
Couldn’t I Just Tell You
Hello It’s Me
A dream Goes On Forever