My friend Pooch took me to the Todd Rundgren "A Wizard A True Star" concert at the Akron Civic Theatre tonight. What a wonderful theatre. The theatre has been reconditioned and looks just beautiful. The first time I ever saw Todd was at the Akron Civic Theatre back in 1974, Todd did most of the A Wizard A True Star album solo, just Todd and a real to real on stage. He just blew me away that night. This show was good but not great.
Todd and part of the band play the first set in front of the stage curtain. Kasim Sulton on bass, Roger Powell on keyboards and Prarie prince on drums. The band is dressed in white T shirts and black pants. The first song is "On the Road to Utopia", Todd sings he is barely audible, the sound is terrible. OK sound men usually take a song or two to get the sound right. Kasim Sulton sings "Libertine", the sound is bad. Roger Powell sings the next song the name might have been "vacant city"? I don't know it. Sound is still bad. "Fist Pump" sounds terrible. "Landslide" is just OK.
First set the sound men screwed up bad. Todd was best when he was the front man with a band behind him. When he tries to be a band and highlight other members of the band it comes off weak. The firsts set was a bunch of Utopia songs that never were my favorites to begin with then throw in a bad sound man and it becomes terrible. Todd has no repartee with the audience. The band just played and sounded bad. Thank God for the break.
The curtain opens with "International Feel" playing. The stage is all in smoke Todd is in an astronauts suit and three keyboard players,Gregg Hawkes, Bobby Strickland who also plays sax and flute and Roger Powell, a drummer Prarie Prince, a bass player Kasim Sulton and a guitarist Jesse Gress, are on platforms at different elevations dressed in all white tuxedos with tails. There is a movie screen above the stage that will show images pertaining to the album or individual songs through out the night. Three keyboardists are on one side of the stage with the rest of the band on the other side of the stage leaving Todd the middle of the stage for his theatrical performance. Remember that AWATS came out about the same time when theatrical performances were the norm for rock bands. Bowie was doing Major Tom and The Spiders From Mars. Genesis was into costume changes in the blink of an eye. Alex Harvey was doing his theatrical performances of his music. Jethro Tull was performing "Thick as a Brick". So this is an old time concert with music and a theatrical performance as well.
Todd tries to sing "Never Never Land" but his microphone is not working. He finally grabs Kasim Sulton's microphone and finishes the song. "Tic Tic Tic" is played but the sound quality is bad. "You Need Your Head" again the microphone keeps cutting out. For "Rock and Roll Pussy" Todd has on a green velvet jogging suit but his pants keep falling down and he keeps struggling to pull them up, it is very distracting. For Todd to be the Wizard of technology that he is, his crew is failing miserably at the technical side of the production.
"Dog Fight Giggle" finally is a song that comes off without a hitch. The screen above the stage is flashing pictures of the right wing and left wing reporters such as Rush Limbaugh, Steven Colbert, John Stewart, Sean Hannity, George W and Obama. I think it is pretty funny.
Todd comes back out on stage in a red velvet smoking jacket, the band misses its cue to start playing and Todd stops them. "Start on my down beat" he tells them. "I thought this is the show we would do last night" he tells the audience. I take it that he is referring to all of the mistakes being made. Mistakes that should have been corrected the night before. A one, two, and they start into "You Don't Have To Camp Around". "Flamingo" has the screen above the stage shooting flamingos out of everywhere. Out of Todd's mouth, big ones, small ones, dancing across the screen. "The Zen Archer" brings Todd back out in a partially uncovered top with gold feathers running down his arms. Another costume malfunction as Todd sings and fixes the medallion on his chest at the same time. "Just Another Onion Head" and "Da Da Dali" have an obese Todd in a ball cap, bow tie and suspenders.
for some reason at this point "When the Shit Hits the Fan/ Sunset Boulevard" and "Le Feel International" are not played. These are the first songs not to be played in order of the album.
"Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel" is done beautifully. Kasim comes down off of his platform and sings "Does Anybody Love You?". Todd reenters the stage in an orange tux befitting of Bill Murry doing his lounge act on Saturday Night Live. The Medley of songs is a highlight of this concert. Todd's voice is as good as ever. He sings, "I'm So Proud", "Ooh Baby Baby", "La La La Means I Love You" and "Cool Jerk". They ask everyone to dance like cool jerks at the end. "Hungry For Love", has Todd in a chefs outfit with a mustache. "I Don't Want To Tie You Down" has Todd in a red robe on a smoke filled stage, back lit so all you see is his silhouette.
Todd comes out for "Is It My Name" in a silver shiny outfit straps on a Gibson guitar and begins to wail on his guitar. Todd saved the missing songs for this part of the show so that once he strapped on his guitar he could rock out until the end of the show. Here is where he plays "When The Shit Hits The Fan/Sunset Blvd" and "Le Feel International". Wow we are smoking now. The concert is finally in full swing and it is almost over.
The encore of course is the only song left. But first Todd introduces the band and his wardrobe girl Michelle. Michelle Rundgren perhaps? The anthem for any one growing up in the seventies, "Just One Victory" is then played. Of course the guitar tech forgets to bring out Todd's guitar. Michelle has to run off stage a couple of times to try and get Todd's guitar on stage. Todd finishes and exits the stage.
I would not want to be back stage right now. Todd seemed very perturbed when he was exiting the stage. Heads should roll for this show. The sound was bad, miscues from the band and the guitar tech, inexcusable. This show was being filmed for a DVD, what a disaster. There were some highlights but there were a lot of mistakes.
I have to rate this a three twirl show. Sorry Todd I expect more from you. The tickets cost top dollar the show should be top notch. The concept is great and some of the music was performed exquisitly but overall too many distractions from the poor technical quality.