5 June 2000
Gothic Theatre, Denver, CO
Perhaps the first reason I like Todd Rundgren is his talent for intricate production, having racked up credits for the likes of Grand Funk's #2 1973 album, We're An American Band, and Badfinger's Straight Up. The second reason would be his ability to write beautifully melodic tunes such as, "Hello It's Me", "I Saw The Light", "Be Nice To Me", "Love Is The Answer", and "Can We Still Be Friends." However, tonight Todd put those 1970s talents behind him and demonstrated his passion of recent years, a passion that has developed a cult following for the 51 year old icon. Now, what would we call this? Hard Rock? Grunge? Metal? Well, Todd calls this tour the Power TR-io.
Neither did fans hear "We Gotta Get You A Woman", nor did they hear any of the above-listed numbers. Rather they heard a heavy bar-band type of sound perhaps most resembling his time with a group he formed later in the 1970's, Utopia. Making this possible, in part, was former Utopia bassist, Kasim Sulton, and drummer Trey Sabatelli.
This was my first concert at the recently renovated Gothic Theatre in Denver, just a stone's throw from Englewood, CO. The theatre much resembles Boulder's Fox Theatre in size, shape, and sound--it's not really a theatre, it's a sloped, staircased bar.
Todd strolled out at 09:15, and, like the rest of his band, dressed in all black, resembling a slightly thinner Howard Stern. Decked out in shades and a bleached section of hair on the top of his head, Todd was speechless when the band opened with "(I hate my fricken') ISP", and the subsequent, emotional, "Couldn't I Just Tell You". Later came "Love Of The Common Man". It took eight tunes before he covered a couple that were immediately recognizable to everyone, "Bang On The Drum All Day", performed in G (instead of D), on a ukelele, in Tiny Tim fashion, and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
Later in the mix, Rundgren led off his 1967 psychodelic Nazz hit, "Open My Eyes" with a chord-for-chord copy of the Who's "Can't Explain". Todd must like the key of E--It seemed like the majority of tunes this evening, including the most previously mentioned, were delivered in this chord.
Eventually, the TR-io performed the Utopia hit, "One World", in the key of C. However, it seemed as if Todd not only left behind his solo career history, he even left behind any melodic trace of his Utopia career, including their 1980 top 40 hit, "Set Me Free". Most memorable from the encore was the hard-rockin' "Hammer In My Heart".
Though the rhythm section of this band hit every note and beat flawlessly, Todd, strangely, accidentally hit a few bad chords on three separate occasions this evening. One was so off for so long that I immediately concluded that he must have broken a string, or that some midi interface had malfunctioned. Nope, just a pure and simple honest f*#% up.
His aqua Stratocaster appeared to have signal grounding problems several times during the night, to the point where he almost swapped out the guitar mid-song. Todd has names for all his guitars. His black Rickenbacker 6-string is called, "Ricky", and another is dubbed, "Persy".
Anyway, make no mistake about it, the main reason Todd has a huge following is his eclectic resistance to predictability.
[***] - Steven T.
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