Just witnessed your
best live gig?.. send us a review!
London HMV Hammersmith Apollo, 6 February 2010
mood of joyful anticipation outside The Hammersmith Apollo. Todd
Rundgren fans from all over are here to witness the European premiere of
the record that was once decried as a commercial failure and has over
time been recognised as one of Rundgren's very best.
A Wizard, A
True Star, the crazed mish mash of Zappa-esque weirdness and beauty will
tonight, a mere few months since its US premiere, be performed in its
glorious entirety. The only question is, can Rundgren, 37 years after
the album's original release, still 'take the bull by the horns' and
pull it off?
good from the start. The evening commences with a very special opening
guest - Todd himself.
His latest project entitled Rundgren's Johnson, contains a three piece
band plus the man himself, playing rocked up versions of Robert
Johnson's blues classics. And however bland this may sound, Rundgren
makes it work and creates his own beardless version of ZZ Top, getting
the crowd nicely heated up for exciting things to come.
minutes later and it's finally time for the main event of the night...
dim and we find ourselves in almost total darkness before the first
familiar noises of 'International Feel' start buzzing out of the
speakers. Smoke rises out from behind the stage curtain, the keyboards
come in and bam! - the curtain opens for the climatic intro of the set.
In front of us we have a suited and booted six piece band, three on each
side, elevated on risers and held apart by a golden arch in the middle
of the stage. Smoke continues to rise and through the arch steps none
other than - Rundgren in a spacesuit. The moment is so surreal,
spectacular and unexpected that our hair stands on end.
And this is
only the beginning of many more costume changes over the course of the
night. While one track segues into the next, Rundgren pops in and out of
his 'magic wardrobe' only to unveil yet another exciting character like
the Devo-esque Boojji Boy lookalike for 'Just Another Onionhead/DaDa
Dali', the dying bird aka Rundgren tarred and feathered for ‘Zen
Archer', Todd as classical conductor for ‘Never Never Land' and Rundgren
in '60s get up for ‘You Don't Have To Camp Around'.
But all this
theatre would be nothing more than a distraction was it not for
Rundgren's flawless guitar skills and his pristine vocal performance.
His voice remains as untainted and fresh as in his early days, only
bettered perhaps by the odd additional nuance that his 40 odd years of
showbiz has taught him.
Much praise also goes to band which consists of some of the finest
players around - Greg Hawkes, Kasim Sulton and Prairie Prince, to name a
few. The guys do a marvellous job throughout and are particularly
interesting to watch during the crazed mid-sections from the A-side of A
Wizard, A True Star. Complex instrumentals like ‘Tic Tic It Wears Off'
and 'Flamingo' sound flawless and added visuals exclusively made for the
Wizard shows complement these mid-sections perfectly.
and sometimes Utopia vocalist Sulton at one point steps up to the mic to
sing ‘Does Anybody Love You' so Rundgren can get ready for the 10 minute
plus ‘Medley'. The three part song goes down a treat and for the final
part of the soul medley, Rundgren's second keyboard player and
jack-of-all-trades Bobby Strickland jumps up to the front of the stage
and riles up the crowd before him and Todd do a special 'Cool Jerk'
freak out, which finally gets the seated crowd up and dancing.
the set Rundgren missed playing the rocker and fan favourite ‘When The
Shit Hits The Fan / Sunset Boulevard' only to throw it in now after 'Is
It My Name' for a double whammy of an end section. The Hammersmith crowd
thank him for it and groove along.
exit the stage but Rundgren gets called back pretty much immediately by
rapturous applause. He calls out his band and his costume designer one
by one and introduces them to his fans before finally ripping into
what's going to be the last of tonight's performances, the mighty ‘Just
In a lot of
ways ‘Just One Victory' is the crowning glory of this special evening
and arguably Todd's true masterpiece to which the crowd sing along,
excitedly. Halfway through the outro of the song we turn to scan the
blissed out fans and it becomes clear that this was no ordinary concert
but the work of a wizard, a true star. Long may he continue to shine.