Saturday, October 31, 2009

Concert Review-Todd At The Spectrum

Philly pop stars rock hard at the Spectrum
By David Hiltbrand


The best deal in town? Friday night's triple bill at the Spectrum: The Hooters, Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates for an admission fee that maxxed out at $6. The deep discount reflected ticket prices in 1967 when the Spectrum first staged concerts.

This concert was billed as "Last Call," as a triumvirate of locally bred pop pastmasters bade an affectionate farewell to the soon-to-be shuttered venue.

The only way this show could have been more Philly-centric was if roaming PennDot crews had been blocking access to the concession stands.

The Hooters set a vibrant tone, from a coiled "Day by Day" to the gyrating tilt-a-whirl of "And We Danced". Frontman Eric Bazilian got a big reaction, during an earnest cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer," when he announced, "This one's for the Phillies."

The night represented the end of an era not just for the building (which will close after four Pearl Jam shows next week) but for the performers as well, all of them in the autumn of their careers.

This could be one of the last times any of them play in a vaunted arena setting. So the stage theatrics were dialed up appropriately with lots of hair tossing and fist pumping.

The real revelation was Rundgren who delivered a screaming, squalling broadside of acid rock. It was a thrilling aural flashback.

On songs like "Love in Action", "Strike" and "Couldn't I Just Tell You", he evoked a range of rockers, from Spirit to AC/DC to Robin Trower.

Performing in a two-tone poodle cut and pipe-stem black pants, Rundgren reminisced about his only previous appearance at the Spectrum, opening for Jeff Beck more than a quarter century ago.

Oddly, Rundgren's often brilliant chime-and-thunder set drew the most muted crowd response of the night. Maybe the audience was just pacing itself, saving its huzzahs for the headliners.

What can you say about the Hall & Oates revue? The hits just kept coming, from the puma prowl of "Maneater" to the jump-and-shout syncopation of "You Make My Dreams."

The simpler songs, like "She's Gone" and "Sara Smile" were the best showcases for Hall's supple and appealing voice.

But the group also sounded good when allowed some elbow room, as on a sprawling "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)". It featured an extended sax solo from Charlie DeChant who, even in an eye-popping cranberry suit, looks like Pierre Robert's father.

Unfortunately, the volume for Hall & Oates performance, particularly on the microphones, was boosted beyond the amplifiers' capacity. It saddled their sound with a stridency that belied the sweetness of the material.

After a brief intermission, the headliners returned with a remarkable bonus round, a stroll down the city's musical heritage trail.

First they brought our Charlie and Richie Ingui of the Soul Survivors for a raucous cover of their 1967 classic "Expressway to Your Heart".

After Bazilian and Rob Hyman of the Hooters joined the merrymakers, Hall enlisted Rundgren's help for a soul cavalcade, made up of "Back Stabbers", "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" and "Love Train".

Apparently drunk with its own power, the all-star band swung into "Disco Inferno" for a final encore. Maybe you had to be there.

Maybe you should have been there for this spirited revival meeting.

For many people in this city, the Spectrum wasn't a sports palace as much as it was rock n' roll church. On Friday, the high priests of Philly pop conducted some righteous last rites.