Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Celebrity Theatre
Date: Wednesday June 26, 2019
Tour: The Individualist Tour
Ed Masley over at the Arizona Republic has written a great article about Todd Rundgren, his career and this current tour. If you want additional info about Todd, I would highly recommend reading Ed’s article: https://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/music/2019/06/21/musician-todd-rundgren-has-written-a-memoir-and-it-contains-183-chapters-interview-tour-phoenix/1508160001/ .
My review will be more about the actual concert and Todd’s amazing performance. I saw Todd a number of times before. The first was at this little bar in Tempe, Arizona called Dooley’s put on by a little know local producer, Danny Zelisko at Evening Star Production. At that time, Todd played mainly songs from his years with the Nazz. Skip ahead to the early 80s, and I saw Todd again and this time he played mainly songs from his years with Utopia. Back in November of 2016, I saw Todd again but this time he was playing with Ringo Starr in Ringo’s All-Starr Band. Then in August 2017, Todd came back to the Celebrity Theatre with his own band.
So last Wednesday night we got to hear a version of Todd’s music that was completely different for me. It was the first time I had heard many of the songs from Todd’s long career. Todd has created over 20 solo albums, 3 albums with the Nazz and 9 albums with Utopia. Tonight’s show was divided into 2 sets and covered songs from 14 different albums. About half of the songs, Todd played guitar and the other half, he just sang into his retro 50s mic. About half way through the first set, Todd picked up his “Green Fender Strat” and started talking to it, telling it that he did not forget it. Todd was joking because he did a lot of his music in the 80s using a synthesizer. Todd also joked that all anyone needs is to walk around with a guitar and think you are musician.
The Celebrity Theatre has a rotating round stage, but for tonight’s show, they only used half of the theatre and made the stage stationary. Todd’s band was positioned at the back of the stage and Todd’s mic was positioned in the middle of the stage. This allowed Todd to roam around the front of the stage and from side to side wither playing guitar or singing to the audience. The theatre also has 2 large screens on either side of the venue and they played videos during the show. This included a montage of all of the albums Todd produced or help produce include albums for other bands.
The first set had his biggest hits including, “I Think You Know”, “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light”. The audience sang along with many of the songs and Todd and the band received numerous standing ovations. After about 80 minutes of spectacular music, the band left the stage. A number of people in the audience thought the show was over, but finally over the intercom they announced that it was intermission.
After about 20 minutes, the venue darkened and over the sound system came “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire II” from Todd’s album Initiation. Then Todd walked back out and stood at his mic. It was time for Todd’s Q&A session. Prior to the show, some audience members got to create videos asking Todd questions. Some of these were now played for Todd and he answered them the best he could. The one I like best was the question about his work with the “Video Toaster”. Todd experimented with Commodore Amiga computers to help create software that allowed for broadcast quality video and sound that included editing, mixing, graphics and animation. The company was called NewTek and it is still around and is still producing systems based on the Video Toaster system. This one question showed us that Todd was more then just a musician, but also a visionary, masterful sound engineer and producer.
After the Q&A, the rest of the band came out and the second half of the show began. For me, it was the first time hearing a number of the songs including, “Eastern Intrigue”, “Tiny Demons” and “Born to Synthesize”. For an encore Todd came back out to play another little played song, “The Want of a Nail”. The show lasted for over 3 hours with over 2.5 hours of marvelous music.
Todd’s band consists of guitarist Jesse Gress, bass player Kasim Sulton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer Prairie Prince. Joining Todd for this tour is Bobby Strickland on keyboards, sax and flute.
This was probably the best Todd Rundgren show I have ever seen. Todd’s voice is still as strong as when I saw him in the 80s. Not only did we get to hear some of his biggest hits, but also little heard songs from his phenomenal career. I was not the only one astounded by the song selection. Many people commented after the show about how it was great to hear all of these little played songs. If you love Todd’s music, then this tour is truly a show to see. You will be thrilled to hear this wide selection of his works.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2019, All Rights Reserved
Todd Rundgren’s Setlist: (Album/Cover)
Intro (How About a Little Fanfare?) (Todd)
I Think You Know (Todd)
Open My Eyes (Nazz)
Hello It’s Me (Nazz)
We Gotta Get You a Woman (Runt)
I Saw the Light (Something/Anything?)
It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference (Something/Anything?)
Black Maria (Something/Anything?)
An Elpee’s Worth of Toons (Todd)
Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel (A Wizard, a True Star)
Too Far Gone (Hermit of Mink Hollow)
A Dream Goes on Forever (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School)
The Death of Rock and Roll (Initiation)
Can We Still Be Friends (Hermit of Mink Hollow)
Real Man (Initiation)
Couldn’t I Just Tell You (Something/Anything?)
Fair Warning (with Real Man reprise) (Initiation)
(A Treatise on Cosmic Fire II.… more ) (Initiation)
The Individualist (The Individualist)
Lost Horizon (A Cappella)
Black and White (Faithful)
Honest Work (A Cappella)
Buffalo Grass (One Long Year)
Eastern Intrigue (Initiation)
Tiny Demons (Healing)
Born to Synthesize (Initiation)
The Want of a Nail (Nearly Human)