Monday, June 10, 2013

Todd Rundgren - Manchester Ritz - 09Jun13 ...Some Words ...

... on the "Official State Visit" tour ...

(N.B. this might be rather long ... but you can guarantee I'll be missing large chunks out !!).

I have two great music heroes ... alphabetically speaking ... Steve Hillage and Todd Rundgren.  For those under-age people, you'll need to go back to the 70s (Google will help of course !!).  I look back with fondness to those days - Knebworth Festivals, Reading Festivals (i.e. well before Reading/Leeds was invented), gigs in London and Sheffield, even Liverpool (when Todd performed with Ringo Starr's All Star Band) - all in homage to those two musicians.  

Time moved on ... starting with Steve Hillage - his 1976 album "L" was a classic in my humble opinion, his peak - and incidentally was produced by ... yep Todd Rundgren.  Then came the anti-music backlash of punk rock - so Hillage promptly puts a track "1988 Aktivator" on his 1979 album "Open" - OK just the one track but ...  The early 80s saw the "double" album "For To Next/And Not Or" - and we were starting to move away from the hippy/dippy music that I'd loved and grown up with ... we were heading down the ambient/trance route, which culminated in the formation of System 7.  I gave it a go - yes I've got a System 7 album (OK CD !!), but it was one step beyond.  OK, the 21st Century has seen him reprise some of his old material together with Gong, but that's just what it was - a reprise of old material.

Todd Rundgren ... a man who has re-invented himself more times than ... an inventor - often on the same album (think "Wizard/A True Star" - a right 'eclectic' mix if I may say so !).  Time moved on - Utopia arrived - and there was a  move towards 'progressive' rock ("Todd Rundgen's Utopia" and "Another Live").  One year after the Steve Hillage production, Utopia released "Ra" - probably my all-time favourite album involving Todd ... and later that same year came another classic Rundgren production - "Bat out of Hell" by Meat Loaf (like the Hillage album, it was produced by Todd and featured members of Utopia).  Time moved on ... Utopia albums and Todd solo albums - each one just that little bit different - but still very accessible.  Then came the 90s - then came "No World Order" ... a radical movement towards dance/techno, heavily influenced by computers !!!  Other "odd-balls" came and went - the bossa-nova inspired "With a Twist" for example.  2008 saw the "Arena" album - a throwback to rock - saw him in Manchester on that tour - and that was a cracking night.

However ... it's time to move on to last night (09Jun13) at the Manchester Ritz - not a huge venue - it was probably 70% full downstairs (the upstairs balcony was shut).  For my sins I had not got round to buying a copy of the new CD "State" so I was 'going in cold'.  Looking around, I reckoned the average age of the audience was about ... me I guess.  Within 15 minutes, I was confused - was I watching Todd Rundgren or was was watching a Todd Rundgren karaoke ?? Despite the attendance on stage of drummer Prairie Prince and Guitarist Jesse Gress (who is an excellent performer), it was more a question of Todd pressing buttons and singing along to a backing track.  Digressing slightly, I believe there was a "computer glitch" at the Edinburgh gig a couple of nights ago which led to Gress "filling in" with a bit of "Lucky Guy" from "Hermit of Mink Hollow" (from 1978 !) - it's on Youtube somewhere.  In fact I believe Todd only donned his guitar three times during the entire (90 minute - no support) gig - and on one of those occasions he started a solo, took the guitar off, and left Jesse Gress to finish it - weird or what ?  We had many flashing lights (no epilepsy warning for us old gits on the ticket/in the venue - OK I jest), and the techno/dance theme continued - at times it was embarrassing watching some of the elderly people in the audience bouncing around to "Angry Bird" as if they'd aimed for the Parklife Concert in Heaton Park - and missed.  I almost expected Bez to come bounding out on stage - but maybe it was more Prodigy than Madchester ... Guess my highlight track of the night was "Worldwide Epiphany" - although again I was unsure whether the heavy guitar riff was live or 'on tape'.  Trawling the web a bit when I got home last night, there was talk of people "walking out" at certain concerts - I'm sure there were many purists (?) there last night as well, although I didn't see any about-turns for the exit.  And for the purists I'm sure the encore was an abomination ... three classic tracks ("Can We Still Be Friends",  "I Saw The Light" and "Hello It's Me" segued together with a techno/dance backing track.  I've no problem with reworks of old classics (I've mentioned the bossa-nova album earlier) - and I've seen Bob Dylan "tweaking songs" live as well as on disc ("Budokan") - I was waiting for the cry of "JUDAS !" but it either didn't come ... or I didn't hear it.  Hearing these three performed as they were was somewhat bizarre though.

Did I enjoy the gig ??  Hard to say - can I say I didn't dislike it - it certainly wasn't what I expected - but what did I expect ?? ... as I said somewhere further up, Todd is a guy who is continually evolving, re-inventing, trying new - and I'm sure he's sick to death of being asked to play stuff that's 30+ years old.  I did come out of the gig (at 2145hrs - now that's early !) a lot more confused than when I went in though - although I did come out clutching a copy of the "State" CD for further perusal/'analysis'.  I could say more I suppose ... but suffice to say, I await the next incarnation of Todd Rundgren with bated breath. There's a track on "No World Order" called "Time Stood Still" - it certainly doesn't for Todd Rundgren !

No comments: