Saturday, March 26, 2011
HEALER IN HARTFORD
Todd Rundgren Shows
Wide-Ranging Musical Ability
With Full-Albums Show in Hartford
Apart from indulging his super-fans, Todd Rundgren's full-album show Friday in Hartford was also an excellent demonstration of his wide-ranging musical taste and abilities.
That's true even on a song-to-song basis, but the diversity of Rundgren's catalog was thrown into bold relief when he performed his 1973 album "Todd," followed by his 1981 album "Healing," at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.
Re-creating the albums on stage back-to-back emphasized Rundgren's penchant for pushing, prodding and stretching music as far, and in as many directions, as possible. (Additional evidence: he said in a recent interview that's working on an album of dance music.)
"Todd" was classic weird-'70s, with a jumble of guitars, keyboards and drums on songs balancing a sense of experimentation (layers of synthesizers and crying guitar on "The Spark of Life") with rock 'n' roll heft (the brash chugging guitars of "Heavy Metal Kids"). The curtain came up at the start on Rundgren alone on an empty stage, back to the audience and wearing a silvery high-neck cape as his five backing musicians stepped (or rolled, in the case of the drummer and keyboard players) into place.
The band, dressed in colorful blares of patchwork psychedelia, advanced and receded as necessary for the songs, on which Rundgren sang, played guitar and occasionally sat down at an upright piano.
After playing the second-to-last song from "Todd," the curtain came down for an intermission while the band readied itself for "Healing."
That one was weird-'80s, with a heavier emphasis on keyboards and the contributions of a vocal choir. Dressed in tunics of varying colors, the musicians — Jesse Gress, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland and Kasim Sulton, with choirmaster Dirk Hillyer — created atmospheric passages with synthesizers, broken up on "Golden Goose" by a skittering, descending guitar part and pierced on "Healing Part I" by a shrill electronic instrument that looked sort of like a clarinet.
The show was the opening night of a brief five-date tour, and there was a miscue or two, which Rundgren laughed off.
"First show, you know," he said during the "Todd" portion. "It's a privilege and a liability."
The crowd seemed to see it only as the former. In fact, when Rundgren and the band returned for an encore performance of "Sons of 1984," the one song they left out of the "Todd" half of the show, some of the faithful stuck around to sing another chorus or two after the final curtain had come down.