Todd Rundgren kicked off his new “Official STATE Visit” tour in the Hudson Valley last night at the Bearsville Theater on Sunday, May 5th to a sold-out revved up crowd. I have to confess that my husband Tom is a fan of his, but I’m not that familiar with his music. I do remember his hits “Hello it’s me” and “Can We Still Be Friends” though so I was looking forward to the concert. The concert started around 8:30pm, and there were a few serious groupies in the front row. (The theater was set up for standing room only so the chairs were removed).
I overheard two strangers negotiating camera rights. One woman asked another fan standing in the 2nd row, if she could squeeze in during the concert so she could get a few good photos. “Sure, just give me 10 or 15 minutes to get my Todd fix, and I’ll let you in,” she told her. (I love Woodstock! Strangers helping strangers). Tom and I stood close to the stage, a few rows in. Two ladies in back of me asked me to take their photo with their iPhone. Fog smoke, laser lights, and Todd Rundgren appeared dressed like a mad space hipster alien, along with his guitarist Jesse Gress and drummer Prairie Prince. He opened with a strong performance of his new song “Imagination” which I really liked. The music was trippy, techno, and kind of reminded me a bit of Ziggy Stardust. Rundgren has definitely embraced this type of computer-generated music, but at times watching him go back and forth between his devices distracted me a bit from the music. At one point it looked like he was reading off lyrics from his iPad. (My fanatic husband insists Rundgren was just being theatrical).
There was almost no singer-to-audience small talk during the entire show. (Even if I don’t know the singer, I still like to hear stories on how songs were written, what they like about Woodstock, their trip here, band mate names, etc. Or at least, say something like, “This next song is called “Angry Bird”). The only thing Rundgren told the audience was that if we were tired of standing, we could try alternating our feet, or we could lean into someone. Maybe the whole choreography doesn’t lend itself to chit-chat, but I would have liked a little schmooze. There were a few funny audio bloopers too, which made up for the lack of small talk. I did get into his music, and a few of the songs had poignant lyrics. At 10 o’clock, when the concert was winding down, Tom said, “Wait, a minute! I guess he’ll sing “Hello it’s me” for the encore.” He came out and sang “Hello it’s me” as a techno dance track, not the paired down piano version that Tom had hoped for. (Oddly enough though the more I replay the clip, the more I like it, and now I’m convinced that I like the new version better!) After the concert, the 2 ladies behind us expressed their disappointment with the encore. “I mean, come on. Couldn’t he play that hit song the normal way?”she told me. Tom agreed, but he told her the stage was probably not set up for that. “Oh, well! That’s okay. We’ll just listen to his CD in the car on the way home!” she laughed. It was a fun night though, and as I listen to the music again, I have a desire to get his new CD and listen to the new “STATE” CD. It was a great show, and if you love the techno wizadry of Todd Rundgren, you are in for a treat. If you are hoping for something retro, maybe not.