Todd Rundgren made a welcome return to London, his first for five years, on the second leg of his Individualist tour in support of his new autobiography of the same name.
The idea of this tour is to play songs that trace his musical history in tandem with small excerpts from the Individualist book, alternating the dates (in cities), for a book signing and live concert experience across Europe and the United States.
The show itself is divided into two halves, the first a 90-minute tour through Rundgren’s history starting with the Nazz tune Open My Eyes, and taking in such landmark songs as Hello It’s Me and I Saw The Light.
Throughout, he mixes sound and vision with interjections and explanations about why he wrote songs about women and love and how he allowed himself to self-indulge and produce masterworks like the album A Wizard A True Star, from which he highlighted an amazing live version of Black Maria.
The second part was an hour or so of some of Todd’s more experimental works, or perhaps those songs less played live, including stupendous performances of Black & White and Buffalo Grass.
His band, who were excellent throughout, included members of The Cars, The Tubes, and Utopia. Jesse Gress (guitar), Prairie Prince (drums), Kasim Sulton (bass), Greg Hawkes (keys), and Bobby Strickland (sax, oboe, clarinet) showed first-class musicianship and effortless brilliance, which was bought to the fore on the showstopper Eastern Intrigue.
Although there were also supposed to be some interactive questions from the audience shown on the big screen, the tiny demons really put a spanner in the works, but TR laughed off the gremlins with comic timing.
Throughout the show Todd managed to give us a brilliant vocal performance, some absorbing stories, and insight into his natural quick wit. His green guitar, affectionally named “Foamy”, actually had a malfunction during the opening numbers and whilst the roadie was sorting it out he joked “it was the first time that I had to play air guitar to my own song”.
Most of the set was taken from the Bearsville label albums that appeared in the 1970s and, although he has produced some great work since then, there are not many individual artists apart from Bowie and Prince who have produced such a diverse and solid set of records in one decade.
Personally, I loved that he dipped into works from Faithful, Hermit Of Mink Hollow, and Initiation (which, at the time, was the longest ever recorded rock vinyl album with nearly 70 minutes of playing time and came with a warning to make sure that you had a new stylus so as not to damage the record as the grooves were so close together). This is just one of the many “musical firsts” that Todd Rundgren has had over the years.
As Todd has a massive catalogue of work I am sure the set list will change nightly, and the band will cope by taking those changes in their stride, but I for one was blown away to hear Love Of The Common Man, Too Far Gone, Fade Away, and Fair Warning played live on the same night along with out and out rockers The Death Of Rock & Roll and Determination.
The encore was the feel-good singalong hand-clapper Just One Victory, which gave the audience the chance to run to the front of the theatre and overrun the two security guards at the front. Todd actually told them to let the crowd come, and if he could have shook hands with everyone in the hall I think he would have done so.
Individualist, inspirer, initiator, come back soon Todd Harry Rundgren. The people did not want to let you go!