For more than three decades, I'd waited to see Todd Rundgren, the gifted singer, songwriter, bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and record-producer. My time finally came Sunday night.
Although the 63-year-old Rundgren was bedeviled by a nasty cold (which led to some vocal roughness throughout), he gave a charming, impassioned and energetic performance, playing for almost two hours with barely a pause. Dressed in gold-colored sneakers, skinny black jeans, a V-neck T-shirt, a sport coat and sunglasses, he sang, danced, pranced and occasionally played guitar or a little percussion. He rested for a few numbers on a stool, but his spirit never flagged.
Rundgren was accompanied by an excellent backing band that included longtime collaborator Kasim Sulton on bass and background vocals, former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, guitarist Jesse Gress, and keyboards player John Ferenzik. These professionals aced every song, in spite of their leader's repeated joking that they couldn't correctly start the classic "Hello It's Me." They finally succeeded in playing it—wonderfully, by the way—as the first encore tune.
The show began with Rundgren demonstrating his longtime love of Philly soul, with "Real Man" and "Love of the Common Man," although he strained to reach his famous falsetto. Later, he must have coughed off some of the virus, because he looked and sounded more relaxed, especially on adored numbers "Love Is the Answer," "Can We Still Be Friends?" and a robust medley of R&B gems: "I'm So Proud," "Ooo Baby Baby" and "I Want You."
Rundgren told the audience that his set list would consist of songs that he guessed they might request, but that he doesn't take requests, which mercifully meant there was no performance of the annoying novelty "Bang the Drum All Day." Instead, he showed his range with additions from Western music (Lorne Greene's hit "Endless Prairie") and the blues (Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Woman Blues"). He also dug deep into his catalog for such numbers as "Couldn't I Just Tell You," "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," "Buffalo Grass" and "Espresso (All Jacked Up)."
By the time he closed with "A Dream Goes on Forever," the audience seemed to be in Todd heaven.