Tuesday, February 16, 2010
When I first heard that Todd was going to perform his A Wizard A True Star album live, I was both excited and a bit worried. Whilst it is one of my favourite Todd albums, it is also one that was very much about 'The Studio' and not really about 'Live'. I was therefore concerned that certainly chunks of what we - in the olden days - would call side one, might not really work live.
Despite these thoughts there was a high level of anticipation as I took my seat at the Hammersmith Apollo. As an appetiser we also had Todd providing the support in the form of a preview of his soon to be released Todd Rundgren's Johnson – a selection of Robert Johnson covers. Todd versions – whilst enjoyable - didn't really break any new ground musically, but it did provide an opportunity for the man to flex his guitar-hero muscles.
When this finished we had around 45 minutes to wait until the lights went out again and the opening bars of Feel International blasted out, as the curtain rose on the band and Todd appeared in spacesuit to the delight of the audience. What followed was a performance in every sense of the word, as Rundgren dashed back and forth changing costumes - classical conductor, 70's spandex, Camp 60's lounge lizard, Mad Chief, Fat Kid and many more to fit the style of next track.
It was all totally daft, totally ridiculous, and totally captivating – a point proved by at least one Todd virgin beside me clapping as cheering as enthusiastically as any fan in the building.
Yes there were a few bum notes musically and vocally, and some of the tracks didn't quite come off, but when it did all come together as it did on the majority of the songs - 'Just Another Onionhead/DaDa Dali', 'La Feel Internationale', 'Tic tic tic it wears off You need your head', 'Never Never Land', 'Sometimes I don't know what to Feel' etc - the sound more than matched the spectacle.
It wasn't all about Todd though.
The band made up of Kazim Sulton, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland, Jesse Gress and Ralph Schuckett also played their part. Kazim provided additional vocals on Sometimes I don't Know, and took centre-stage for ‘Does Anybody Love You'. Sax player, Bobby Strickland also got in on the act first by asking the crowd to stand up (at Todd's request – a relief for those of us who were disappointed that it was a seated gig in the first place) and then by revealing his dancing ability as he and Todd demonstrated just how to 'Cool Jerk'.
It was soon all over though, with 'Is It My Name' flowing into (the only 'moved' tracks in the running order) ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan / Sunset Boulevard'. Of course it wasn't all over as we knew that traditional set closer and album closer 'Just One Victory' was still waiting for us to all sing along to, as we dutifully did. And then, it really was all over. As those assembled made there way back out into the cold night air, none were in doubt that they had indeed just spent an evening with a wizard , a true star.