Some people may recognize the name Todd Rundgren from the Bebe Buell/Liv Tyler/Steven Tyler gossip. Others may recognize “Hello It’s Me.” But Rundgren is a Renaissance man – not only has he written and performed hits with his bands (Nazz, Runt, Utopia), as a solo artist, and for others but he has written music for off-Broadway, movies, and TV, plays many instruments, produced many artists (including Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, Meatloaf (he played the motorcycle guitar for “Bat Out of Hell”), XTC, Grand Funk Railroad, and Hall And Oates), and has a lot of multimedia firsts (including 1978 – first interactive TV concert, 1980 – first color graphics tablet, 1981 – first music video combining live action and computer graphics, 1992 – first commercially available music download, 1998 – first direct artist subscription service, and many other interactive and state-of-the-art firsts).
The Brooklyn Bowl is one of my favorite clubs and I’d always imagined him playing bigger venues so I was excited to see Todd Rundgren there. I decided to eat at the club before the show. The restaurant was full, so I had to wait for a little bit for a seat at the bar. The host told me I could eat in the main room if I wanted to but I thought he meant eating standing up at the bar, so I waited. When I was finished and went to the main room I saw tables set up at either side with wait service. They don’t usually have the tables out. The show was not sold out (another surprise to me) and they never put the tables away – something they sometimes do before the show starts. The club says they’re proud of their fried chicken but I knew I’d had it last time. Plus I’m not supposed to eat fried food right now. Plus plus I wasn’t overwhelmed by the chicken. I don’t think I’ve ever been overwhelmed by any fried chicken. Maybe I just don’t care for fried chicken. Or maybe it’s because of something that happened in my past – a story for another time. The food I did choose was delicious – roasted adobo corn with queso fresco, chipotle butter, and lime, chicken muffuletta, and chocolate chip bread pudding with vanilla ice cream.
The tables went about two-thirds of the way down the club, so I stood behind the last table off to the side where the bowling is. I noticed a lot of people standing up behind the low wall that separates the bowling from the music club. Were they all VIPs? Or were all the rules going out the window tonight?
Rundgren’s sound is like garage rock/power pop/Philly soul played by great rock musicians. (He was progressive rock for about a minute.) In concert he likes to do covers – even show tunes and Gilbert & Sullivan. The band – John Ferenzik (keyboards), Prairie Prince (drums), Jesse Gress (guitar), and Kasim Sulton (bass) – have all played with Rundgren for years so there was a very easy camaraderie on stage. They started the night and then Rundgren walked out to great applause. He went right into “I Saw the Light.” Rundgren said he’d finally arrived because he was at hipster central. Then he explained that this current tour was for all the holes in his fans’ hearts. All those times they came to his shows and they left disappointed because he didn’t play that one song they wanted to hear. He joked that he might have played the song but the fan didn’t recognize it. (Like a lot of artists with long careers, Rundgren changes things up with older material.) When the timbales (or maybe they were just regular toms) were brought out front, Rundgren joked that everyone thinks they know what song is coming next. The band played a little “Can We Still Be Friends” and then, of course, they all went into “Bang the Drum All Day.” Rundgren looked like he was having a ball up there banging away on the drums. And now that I think about it, I left with a small hole in my heart because he never did a full version of “Can We Still Be Friends” or played “We Gotta Get You a Woman.”
The couple behind me danced and danced and danced. And the guy in front of me kept jumping up and down and flailing his arms. The entire crowd was singing along for just about every song. “Hello It’s Me” didn’t make its appearance until the encore and Rundgren sounded a little like was just fulfilling an obligation but the song turned into a real sing-a-long and that seemed to energize him. The covers were soulful versions of The Impressions’ “I’m So Proud,” The Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby,” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.” Rundgren sang songs from all over his career and his fans were very happy.
For some great photos of the show go to this site.
For a set list go to this site.
By Carene Lydia Lopez