North Tonawanda, NY
Sunday December 6, 2015
Review: Thom Jennings
Photos: Joseph Suto
Todd Rundgren has garnered a dedicated fan base that has followed his musical journey with awe and reverence, while simultaneously trying to make a living performing to crowds that lost track of him in the early 1980’s. Rundgren’s winter 2015-2016 tour thus far appears designed to please fans who want to revisit their youth, or at the very least be reminded of just how prolific Rundgren was in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Sunday’s show in North Tonawanda NY, just outside of Buffalo, comes less than a year after Todd’s “Global” tour that featured a wild light show and a heavy dose of EDM. Sunday’s show featured a healthy dose of powerhouse renditions of Rundgren’s most commercially successful album Something/Anything ? and songs from the classic four-piece Utopia era.
The sold out crowd seemed content to sit back and watch Rundgren belt out songs and rip through guitar solos. Rundgren could not be faulted for a lack of effort, and his voice was in perfect form, but in spite of his best efforts, the crowd stayed seated for most of the evening, with a few people in the front standing after songs were over, and the traditional bum rush to the stage for the encores.
The renditions of the classic songs were faithful but with an added spark. Rundgren’s touring band was on fire all evening, driven by the rhythm section of Kasim Sulton on bass and Prairie Prince on drums, and complimented by the guitar pyrotechnics of Jesse Gress and keyboardist John Ferenzik. The band is arguably Rundgren’s best solo group, not only because of their musicianship, but due to the fact that all of them have performed with Rundgren for at least 20 years.
The Utopia material was the most powerful and seemed to draw the best response from the crowd. “Rock Love”, “Love in Action” and “Lysistrata” found Todd in classic form, either wailing on guitar or moving back and forth in front of the stage just like he did during the band’s heyday. The ballads and slower songs were well received, deeper cuts like “Lost Horizon” and part of the soul medley from “A Wizard a True Star.” Rundgren also played two Nazz songs, “Open My Eyes” and “Kiddie Boy.”
Of the 24 songs in the set only two were released in this century, “Soothe” from his 2015 release Global and “Buffalo Grass” from One Long Year which came out in 2000. The rest of the set pre-dated 1985. If you liked Rundgren’s older work, you left happy.
I Saw the Light
Love of the Common Man
Open My Eyes (Nazz Song)
It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference
Secret Society (Utopia Song)
Love in Action (Utopia Song)
Bang the Drum All Day
Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel
Lysistrata (Utopia Song)
Black and White
Kiddie Boy (Nazz Song)
I’m So Proud (The Impressions song)
Ooo Baby Baby (The Miracles song)
I Want You (Marvin Gaye song)
Rock Love (Utopia Song)
One World (Utopia Song)
Couldn’t I Just Tell You
Hello It’s Me