For a man who has just celebrated his sixty fifth birthday (not to mention over forty years in the music biz), rock and roll legend Todd Rundgren scrubs up pretty well. The multi-talented musician/singer/songwriter/producer is back in Australia, headlining his own tour after visiting our shores earlier this year, as part of Ringo Starr’s ‘All Star’ band. Friday night’s gig at the Revesby Workers Club in Sydney, was the penultimate show of this tour. Todd played to a full room, consisting largely of hard-core fans, some of whom looked like they were still heavily ensconced in the seventies.
Todd opened his two hour set with ‘Real Man’, followed by ‘Love of the Common Man’. After about four or five songs, the singer threw his guitar to the ground and positioned himself on a stool to sing ‘Lucky Man’. At this point, he told the audience that he usually saved the better known hits until last, ‘just to make sure that everyone hangs around until the end.’ He wondered what would happen if he dared to slot his biggest commercial hit into the middle of the set? Would everyone then just get up and leave because they had heard what they came for? ‘Let’s test that theory…’ he suggested, as he launched in to what was arguably his biggest hit in this country, ‘Can We Still Be Friends?’ which, as expected, drew cheers and applause from the crowd. And Rundgren’s theory of playing to an empty room afterwards was soon disproved as ‘that’ song only served to whet their appetites even more.
The singer spent a good percentage of the show seated, delivering slow and soulful songs and there is just something about the cadence of his voice that has always gotten to me. It’s good to see that, even at 65, he still has that quality. He did mix it up a bit though as his set was a combination of pop, rock, blues, soul and a bit of reggae, complete with maracas.
‘Love is the Answer’ was another highlight for me. I believe he also performed this one on the Ringo Starr tour. And, of course, nestled amongst all the other sweet love songs, is the one that gives everyone that chance to express how they really feel about that one true love of their life, who broke their heart with a lie; (I’m sure we are all familiar with that story) ‘Flaw’. Rundgren introduces the song with a warning that it is not for the ears of minors. Unfortunately, there were a couple of them in the audience and they were both up the front of the room, well within earshot. Hopefully they weren’t offended by the ‘mother’ of all expletives.
I mustn’t neglect to mention his fine band of musicians whose contribution should not be underestimated. John Ferenzik (formerly with Jefferson Starship), guitarist and former Guitar Player Magazine editor Jesse Gress, Prairie Prince on drums (The New Cars, The Tubes, Jefferson Starship) and Kasim Sultan (Blue Oyster Cult, The New Cars, Utopia), on bass. At one point, when introducing the band, Todd jokingly announced that Meatloaf would walk on to the stage. And no, that didn’t happen but it was a playful reference to the fact that Rundgren produced Meatloaf’s classic album, ‘Bat Out of Hell’.
Once more strapping on the guitar, the singer ‘recalled’ that he did actually have another hit in Australia and it was time for ‘I Saw the Light’. This song, perhaps more than any other, evokes memories of my adolescence. I was about twelve years old when this song came out and it was on high rotation on Sydney radio at that time. I remember how the lyrics and the melody both cried out to me back then and they still do today. ‘I Saw the Light’ has remained one of my favourite songs and it was a pretty special moment for me to finally see the Rundgren perform this, albeit slightly rockier, version in person.
The encore included two songs: ‘Hello It’s Me’ and ‘A Dream Goes on Forever’. Unfortunately, the show couldn’t go on forever and Todd and the band left the stage to a standing ovation from the crowd, who were honoured to have just spent two hours with rock and roll royalty.
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by Sharyn Hamey