Purple Pyramid 2016
Something? Anything? Surprise is never far away from a true star gathering his flock for a critical mass in the temple of (T)odd.
With his constant self-reinvention, you never know what kind of repertoire Todd Rundgren will be prone to performing in the course of his next tour. It can be solid reading of Delta classics or caravan-like journey through deep tracks, but one thing is guaranteed: the artist will defy any expectations. And what’s the best way to do so if not to actually play crowd favorites strewn with occasional rarity and reach out straight to the heart. But although the “An Evening With…” tag may suggest intimacy, there’s little of it on this CD/DVD combo; it’s more “alone with the whole world” kind of unity, which the veteran, mocking his age, jokingly christens “The Walking Dead” show.
Still, it’s a celebration of live spirit, Rundgren not only sitting on a chair for a reflective moment but also jumping and kicking the air – rather energetically for his stout figure – up to leading the band into rock can-can on “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” before the choir of “Buffalo Grass” bares a serious base of many a Todd song. While “I Saw The Light” is a roaring, if quite relaxed, anticipation of things to come, with a few female fans swaying to its vibe, the riff of “Open My Eyes” has most of the audience on their feet, and “Love In Action” sees enthusiastic, almost ecstatic fans gathering in front of the stage. It gets intense, and there’s total abandon in dancing to the progressively comic routine of “Bang The Drum All Day” where Rundgren’s skin-hitting augments that of Prairie Prince, and Kasim Sulton charges into a groovy bass solo, yet this piece’s merriment creates a striking contrast to the solemn hymn of “Soothe” which is following it to haunt the listeners.
Spirituality inherent to such a mix of old – with infectious blues “Kiddie Boy” harking back to NAZZ – and new cuts is no less illustriously manifested in a preacher’s confession of “Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel” where Todd and Kasim engage in call-and-response, and in the soulful plea of “God Said,” albeit it can’t beat “I’m So Proud” in the tenderness stakes. Yes, later in the show it seeps through the artistic facade, so Rundgren’s voice may break on “Love Of The Common Man” but that doesn’t get in the way of the dedication the veteran tries to hide behind jokes and retorts. Todd wrings emotions from his guitar when soloing on “Black And White” and “Black Maria” only to set the instrument aside on “Love Science” and bust some gracious moves before, as if to test the fans’ knowledge of his catalogue, revisiting “Tortured Artist Effect” with “Drive” and “Mink Hollow” with “Determination” – and it indeed takes a real aficionado to appreciate how “Lost Horizon” is adorned with an ethereal arrangement.
Ultimately, Rundgren excels in creating a sense of belonging for the listener, so “Secret Society” is gaining additional weight, as is “Hello It’s Me,” and him touching the first row’s hands during “Can We Still Be Friends” is the most obvious demonstration of atomic intimacy that Todd’s possessed with. There’s a triumph of such unity in “One World”: that’s why, for all his constant reinvention, Todd remains relevant.