Todd Rundgren is now over forty years and 20 studio albums into his career. His work within a group setting, as a solo artist, and as a producer has been consistently excellent if somewhat under appreciated. He is also a guitarist of note, and for an example of his virtuosity just check out Meat Loaf’s classic album, Bat Out Of Hell.
He has passed through a number of styles of music during his career. He has created pop, rock, experimental, and even some synthesizer based progressive rock along the way. One of his finer efforts was his 1974 double disc solo effort, Todd. Now close to four decades after its original release, Rundgren performed the album in its entirety for the first time as part of a limited six-date sold-out tour. The September 14, 2010, date at Philadelphia’s Keswick Theater, in his hometown, was taped and is being released as both a DVD and CD.
He surrounded himself with a stellar group of musicians. He is joined on stage by bassist Kasim Sulton (Utopia), keyboardist Greg Hawkes (The Cars), drummer Prairie Prince (The Tubes), sax player Bobby Strickland, Guitar Player Magazine editor Jesse Gress who also plays the guitar, and a full choir. Emmy Award winning television personality Roy Firestone conducted an interview with Rundgren during the tour and it is included as bonus footage.
The original release went in a number of directions as if Rundgren was recording whatever came to mind. While each song was impeccably crafted, part of its charm was in the eclectic nature of the music. On stage the songs tend to move in more of a rock direction due to the confines of a static band. Still, he manages to remain true to the original intent of the music. He rocks hard with “Heavy Metal Kids,” travels in a pop direction with “A Dream Goes On Forever,” the emotional album closer “Sons Of 1984,” the soulful “The Last Ride,” the biting satire of “An Elpee’s Worth Of Toons,” and the odd rendition of Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1874 “The Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song.” Through It all his voice, stage presence, and guitar expertise all stand out.
The sound is clean and the picture quality is clear. They probably could have done a better job with some of the camera angles but that is a minor issue. Also of note is that the DVD only contains the music from the album and nothing else.
Todd is a fine journey through the musical mind of Todd Rungren as he resurrects and re-interprets one of the better albums of the mid-1970s. He has also been performing his 1981 album, Healing, which means there is at least one more gem to come.