Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Todd Rundgren - LIVE @ JAZZ CAFE

Live @ Jazz Café
Camden Town

Todd Rundgren is one of the last men standing out there that won’t be classified or boxed in. I can imagine record companies pulling out what little hair they have left after every meeting with him. Over the years whenever he has been on the brim of breaking through the ‘cult’ artist barrier into the mainstream he takes a swift left turn and creates either a new style of his own or becomes encompassed in underground music that even his most die-hard fans wouldn’t be comfortable with on first listen. In the 70’s when he’d released the power pop genius of ‘Hello Its Me’ and ‘I Saw the Light’ it seemed a dead cert that he could be one of the biggest selling stars of the decade but instead he went psychedelic, something most other artists had done 4-5 years previous, but by following his own path he went on to create the masterwork of ‘A Wizard A True Star’, an album that contains no obvious singles, no romantic piano ballads, in fact it’s a total 180 turn into a Dali world of imagination, soul music and space rock. He may have lost a few of his original fans but gathered up a lot more on the way and this is the reason he is the working and inspired artist he is today, unlike a lot of his auto piloted contemporaries.

‘An Audience with Todd Rundgren’ tonight at Camden’s Jazz Café is filled with fans of all ages, the young (yes I’m including myself here) the 80/90s fans and the 1970’s originals (easy to spot as they look like the cast of ‘That 70’s show’ at their 30 year reunion party).

The set is a mixed selection of new, old and personal favourites. Rundgren himself started proceedings and took a moment to explain his choices and selections by suggesting to the crowd that he was choosing the songs “that I feel you would have requested…if we took requests…which we DON’T” this subtle request to cease the shouting out for Utopia (T.R’s 70s prog outfit) B-sides fell on deaf ears as the more obscure and long forgotten tracks were called for between songs.

This is what happens when you’re a ‘cult artist’; your fans are geeks and can be very protective and annoying over the set list and omissions.

Throughout the evening one of the many highlights for me was the Soul Medley from ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ with songs from The Impressions, The Miracles and The Delfonics blended perfectly together to show an artist with a deep love and understanding of the music at hand and executing it to perfection. This soul song cycle (say that three times fast!) was then rounded off and completed with a lovely cover of Marvin Gayes ‘I Want You’ which fitted perfectly and took the set up a notch in my opinion.

Standards from his own canon including ‘Can We Still Be Friends’, ‘I Saw The Light’ and ‘Hello Its Me’ were all played to perfection almost note for note like the original recordings with only ‘It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference’ getting a Bossa Nova overhaul from his 90s ‘With A Twist’ album. Later tracks such as ‘Buffalo Grass’ showed his electric guitar chops match an artist such as Prince (himself another multi-instrumentalist and genre hopping artist and also a massive Rundgren fan.)

Later songs such as ‘Soul Brother’ and ‘Flaw’ from 2004’s ‘Liars’ show that he is still very much a contemporary in every respect and from the overall view of tonight’s show he is one that will continue to follow his own personal muse rather than the ‘career chart’ for many years to come… In Todd we trust.

special thanks to Jodie Meggs for pictures

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