Sunday, February 14, 2010

Todd's bananas, but he's still a True Star

Today, the Mail on Sunday newspaper's David Bennun wrote a glowing review of the sold-out British concert premiere of Todd Rundgren's legendary 1973 album 'A Wizard, A True Star'.

"Todd's bananas, but he's still a True Star"
By David Bennun, Mail on Sunday (UK)
14th February 2010

The influence of The Beatles spreads so far through pop that tracking it is almost impossible, apart from one particular aspect: their eclecticism. That prompted a brief flurry of records that leapt gleefully from one genre to another, but the trend faded in the mid-Seventies.

Lately, however, it has been taken up by acts as hip as Super Furry Animals, as middle-of-the-road as Mika and as offbeat as Lawrence Arabia.

The missing link between such modern-style-hoppers and Liverpool's finest is Todd Rundgren (HMV Hammermsmith Apollo, London **** (4 stars).

Although the American rocker most widely known for producing Meat Loaf's 43 milion selling Bat Out of Hell is not so much missing as under-appreciated.

His Seventies solo work has a cult following and A Wizard, A True Star (1973) represents a peak among those albums inspired by Abbey Road, before the format buckled under the weight of Queen's A Night At The Opera.

AWATS, as Rundgren fans know it, is the beneficiary of another current trend: live performances of classic albums. But rather than simply turning up and playing AWATS to a full house, Rundgren has staged a show every bit as magnificently bananas as the record itself.

Picture a hotchpotch of Roxy Music, Monty Python and Tex Avery, set to a soundtrack that lurches between power pop, glam, cosmic rock, proto-metal, classic soul, chanson and Vaudeville. That last influence is particularly telling of Rundgren's debt to The Beatles, who kept a touch of the music hall about them to the last.

AWATS was an impossible album, dazzling, comical and endearingly outlandish. The same goes for this low-budget, high-concept performance. Rundgren hams it up through hilarious costume changes that reveal he might share Iggy Pop's haircut, but not his exercise regime.

Yet while Iggy is selling car insurance, Rundgren is dishing out mirth and rock'n'roll thrills.
It's taken long enough, but perhaps the world is ready to recognise his peculiar brilliance.

Photo Credit: (c) Carey Brandon