Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Wizard and a True Star

So, a drawback to blogging is that when I am in the middle of an experience, I might be thinking, “What am I going to say about this?” Last night’s Todd Rundgren show at The Carolina Theatre was no exception... and the phrase I kept thinking was, “walking the line between transcendent and annoying.” 
Todd and my friend, David Lesage...
sometime in the 70s.

Then, I thought, what if I say that and people who think Todd is god read it? What if my friend David Lesage, who actually used to work with Todd reads it? It’s not like I’m confessing to murder, but ... it’s definitely confessing to being uncool. But then again, I’ve already told you I’m a huge nerd, right? 

See if you can follow my logic: 1. The reason I found it less than 100% satisfying is that instead of playing his beautiful melodic songs and displaying his rich, honey-smooth Daryl-Hall-on-steroids voice, he pushed out some total in-your-face prog rock: synthesized noodling, blistering guitar solos, unfollowable melody lines... 2. This is a lot like jazz. 3. The idea of hipness springs from the culture of jazz. 

Now, I like Dixieland jazz... Louis Armstrong and all, but the cool, weird, improvisational noodlings of that other kind of jazz... well, i’m just not hip to it. So.... once again, I have proven to you that I am hopelessly uncool. Surprise!

Psychedelia, anyone?
But I was talking about Todd Rundgren... who I love... First of all – his outfit. Transcendent. A psychedelic suit made of sort of stretchy material... and the jacket had these weird golden tube loops hanging off the back. They were made of cloth sewn around stuffing... and he also had on these huge gold chaps with huge circles of color sewn onto them. He removed these eventually. I can only guess how hard they were to move around in.

Anyway, in the picture here, is the suit without the weird gold chaps, although you can kind of see the crazy tubes if you look under his arm on the right. (He’s the colorful guy in the middle.) It’s all the more wild to realise that he’s 63 years old. But I tell you, he looks fantastic. I want to get old just like him. So, he and the guys in the picture come out and play this outrageous prog-rock noodling, with stage jumps and all... Keep in mind that the last time I saw him was in 1983. He came on stage by himself and sat down at the piano and played gorgeous shimmers like Cliche, Love of the Common Man, or Just One Victory. So I really wasn’t prepared for this.

Todd then... a wizard.
I guess I sound like I didn’t enjoy it at all... but truthfully, I did. Because annoying prog rock or not, the man is a genius, and plays his heart out. He’s a great showman with a sense of the absurd, assuring us that with prog rock we were getting the most notes for our dollar. 

The best parts of the evening for me: whenever he opened his mouth to sing. The man’s got a fantastic voice. The unexpected covers were also a great thrill: Something’s Coming from West Side Story (When was the last time you heard a Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim number at a rock show?), and ELO’s Do Ya. I had never given this song much thought, but when he belted out, “Do ya, do ya want my love,” my friend Grace and I both heard it as God asking us, and yelled out “YES!”

As for disappointment that it was not more of a singer-songwriter show, it appeared that I was in the minority. The audience was full of fanboys... because if there is such a thing as a nerdy rock star, Todd Rundgren fills the bill. A theramin player and one of the early adopters of video and computer technology, Todd is the comic-book/sci-fi geek’s rock star. I mean he did ads for Mac, right?

Todd now... a true star.
And yes, I am a geek – guess who was at NC Comic Con last weekend? Although, I do tend to love fantasy more than sci fi... I guess I just don’t get the lack of organization that is progressive rock. That said, Todd Rundgren is a genius, pure and simple, and I was so happy to see him. Doing anything. He could have drunk a Coke and burped out The Wheels on the Bus for all I cared.

It’s like when you go to see Bob Dylan – he may sing one or two of the songs you know from way back, but you may or may not recognize them... because he has a tendency to change the tunes just for his own amusement. I am thinking that if you're a flat-out genius... if you've written a song like Blowin’ in the Wind or Can We Still Be Friends?... if you have a huge far-reaching body of work like those guys, you can do whatever the hell amuses you and people would come to see you – and pay for the privilege... Well, I did, didn’t I?

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