Todd Rundgren Delves Into Fan Favorites

When Todd Rundgren toured last year in support of his latest electronica-driven effort, Global, he only brought DJ Dam Funk (who manned a laptop and a keyboard) and two female singer/dancers on the road with him. The shows, including one at the Bluebird Theater in August, were largely made up of material from Global and as well as some earlier material and a medley of reworked hits like “Can We Still Be Friends,” “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me.”

“Well, it’s one of those things where love it or you hate it,” Rundgren says with a laugh about fans’ receptions the Global tour. “I think most people came to love it, once they got used to it but there are still those people that seem to have been in a coma for 45 years. They show up and expect me to 'Hello It’s Me' exactly the same way I did it after I first performed it.”

Rundgren, who has recorded 25 solo studio albums since 1970’s Runt, says his current tour, which includes a stop Monday night at the Oriental Theater, is “a little bit more up their alley, I would say while at the same time having enough interesting kind of side trips to keep the more adventurous people engaged as well.”

This tour is more about the hits, but Rundgren adds the caveat that if it was a greatest hits tour the shows would only be about twenty or thirty minutes long. “So we have to fill it in with what we call fan favorites and a few deep tracks and some surprises and things like that,” he adds. “But you’re more likely to hear the songs that you may have wanted to hear in their original versions in a show like this before I go back to doing something like Global — something crazy like that.”

Although there are a few songs by Utopia, the band Rundgren formed in 1973, in the current sets, he says there are none of the big production numbers that were associated with the band. “As Utopia evolved we started to turn a little more into a pop band,” Rundgren adds. “Our songs were much more terse and traditionally constructed and we do a couple of those throughout the set but we don’t lean to heavily on them. And in most cases they’re songs that I had written for Utopia.”

While Global and a recent collaboration with Norwegian electronica artists Emil Nikolaisen and Hans-Peter Lindstrom called Runddans find the musician looking toward the future, Rundgren, who’s embraced technology over the last four decades, says advances in technology has also makes it easier to perform some older material.

“A couple of years ago we did a revival of A Wizard, A True Star,” he says. “I think the reason why I sort of put it off so long is because of the evolution of the technology. A lot of the sounds and stuff that were on the original record were somehow painstakingly beaten out of the equipment, and so in that sense it took the passage of time and evolution technologically for it make it easier to do those things. In other words, instead of having to kind of recreate the sounds with all the watered-out ancient Avalon devices and things like that, we could just sample the sound.

“It made it a whole lot easier," he goes on. "So there are things from a certain era we sort of avoided revisiting either because of technical challenges or because of…Well, put it this way, when Utopia as a band broke up, while I did perform some of the material that the band did it just didn’t seem right to go out as a different group of musicians playing the same music. So there are not simply, I guess, artistic restraints or technological constraints there’s a certain amount of…I guess you could say, respect for the original. You know, leave it in people’s memories as the bright shining moment that they recall as opposed to reproduce it and not doing as good a job.”

Todd Rundgren performs at 8:30 p.m., Monday, January 18, at the Oriental Theater. Tickets are $40. 
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon