Rundgren Anything But Predictable

TODDCLEVE

Photo: Jennings

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Photo: Suto

Concert Review
Todd Rundgren
The Bear’s Den Inside SNC
Niagara Falls, NY

Friday March 28, 2014
Hard Rock Rocksino
Northfield, Ohio

Saturday March 29, 2014
Review By: Thom Jennings
Photos: Joseph Suto (N. Falls)
Thom Jennings (Cleveland)

 

There are cities that become synonymous with certain artists, Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey, Billy Joel and New York City and Todd Rundgren and Cleveland.

Cleveland’s love affair with Todd goes back many years, and that love has barely waned. In order to better understand-or at least confirm- Rundgren’s shows in Cleveland are special, this writer followed Todd from the comfortable confines of a 440-seat venue in Niagara Falls to a 2,000-seat venue just over three hours up the road.

While this mini-tour is dubbed as an “unpredictable” evening, Todd still relies heavily on his solo material from his most prolific period in the 1970s. In a casino setting both nights, Todd opted to place “Hello It’s Me” at it’s “predictable” place, near the end of the set.

It almost seems that some crowds will forgive an artist’s quirkiness, stories and just about anything else, as long as that artist delivers enough of their standard fare from the audience’s youth. Todd delivered plenty of the old standbys both nights, shuffling songs like “Love of the Common Man” and “Cliché” on guitar and a healthy dose of cuts from his magnum opus “Something/Anything?” including the aforementioned “Hello it’s Me”, “I Saw The Light” “Song of the Viking” and “I Saw the Light.”

There were only a few songs missing from the set that could have caused even the slightest discomfort, “Bang the Drum”-which fans will see Todd perform this summer with Ringo Starr- and “Can We Still Be Friends” and “Love is the Answer” which was a bigger hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley anyway.

Todd has been around the block enough that he knows how to work a crowd, even though some may argue there have been years he has ignored their wishes to do his own thing. The “unpredictable” format is in many ways the best of both worlds in that it gives fans a chance to see Todd at his artistic and commercial best.

Thankfully Todd has realized that by adding the “unpredictable” moniker, he takes away the license to bitch from the marginal fans that go to casino shows to relive their music of their glory years in a smoke free venue with a high priced drink in their hand.

Even though Todd was in a casino in the Cleveland metropolitan area, he played like he was in a smoke filled arena with adoring fans, even if it meant occasionally letting the music pull him off his comfortable chair. Sadly, in Ohio at the Hard Rock Casino, the staff has been trained to monitor and regulate fun, and were often in conflict with fans that were caught up in the music and wanted to dance.

On Saturday, that urge to dance could not be controlled because Todd and his band knew they were in Cleveland, and they played their asses off.

That’s not to say that the 440 or so people in Niagara Falls weren’t a raucous bunch, but oddly enough they danced their hearts out to Todd’s cover of Daft Punk’s recent Grammy winning song “Get Lucky”, a song that seemed to confuse the crowd in Ohio-or at the very least they did not seem to enjoy it nearly as much as they did in Niagara Falls NY.

In contrast, the Cleveland crowd roared their approval for the 1970s standards, and the occasional Utopia era tune. They hung in there for most of Todd’s other “unpredictable” offerings with the possible exception of the Tony Bennett cover “Are You Having Any Fun?”-a Yellen and Fain song Bennett re-recorded with Elvis Costello in 2006- sent Cleveland fans running to the bathrooms and yet captivated the Falls crowd.

The real difference between the two evenings was not isolated to the show itself. In Cleveland, a mass gathering of fans met up the road before and after, partying old school style. When I returned to my hotel shortly after midnight, the hotel bar was filled with Rundgren fans and his music blared from the jukebox-whereas in Niagara Falls the show blended into other events, in Cleveland it was an event.

Two very different shows in some ways, but it is hard not to note that an artist like Todd in a casino still seems a little odd to say the least. Casinos have become safe environments for artists at the end of their career, there are no opening acts and all too often it seems they are seated affairs.

Of the two rooms, at least the Bear’s Den was designed with musicians in mind; the Cleveland Rocksino Hall looked like a giant gymnasium with chairs. With it being relatively new one would have thought it would have some character, especially with a “Hard Rock” franchise tag.

Of course, nothing can ruin a Todd show in Cleveland. Todd knows the fans will flock there to see him in the city that amongst his fan community should be a required pilgrimage.

No matter where he is you can give Todd a guitar and surround him with a band that knows his music well, (Kasim Sulton, Jesse Gress and Prairie Prince) and one can make a solid predication. It will be a great evening of music.

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DSC_9646Niagara Falls Set
Friday
Love Of The Common Man
Cliché
Running Bear Love Little White Dove
I Don’t Want To Tie You Down
Big Weekend
Black and White
Are You Havin’ Any Fun
It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference
DSC_9636Too Far Gone
Past
Get Lucky
Born To Synthesize
96 Tears
I Saw The Light (Bossa Nova version)
Lysistrata
Encore
In The Year 2525
Hello It’s Me
One World

Northfield Set
Jaan Pahechan Ho
Lysistrata
Big Weekend
I Don’t Want to Tie You Down
Running Bear Love Little White Dove
Love of the Common Man
In the Year 2525
TODDCLEVE3It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference
Song of the Viking
Past
Get Lucky
Daft Punk Grammy Story (spoken)
Black and White
Are You Having Any Fun
I Saw the Light (Bossa Nova version)
Endless Prarie
Gun (Lorne Greene recorded version)
Cliché’
One World
Encore:
Hello It’s Me
Fire
The Wheel

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About Joseph Suto

Location: Buffalo, NY Photographer/Reviewer
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