Back to four to the bar, the Common Man rediscovers communal values and gets his kicks en route.
The last summer month of 1978 saw Todd Rundgren coming off his guest-featuring extravaganza to a regular operation mode with a band the Hermit wanted to be seen as an equal part of – without eschewing his newly embraced back repertoire. As a result, the first shows of UTOPIA’s trek mixed Todd’s solo material with ensemble creations, although it wasn’t before autumn that the quartet reached a more balanced approach to their set, but the roughness of a fresh start added charm to the previously unreleased performances captured on these two discs.
There’s a wonderful grime on “Love Of The Common Man” and a roar in “Trapped,” yet it takes some time for the group to fully kick into the fun-having gears. The players pass instruments and lead parts around in the perky “Black And White” and “Gangrene” which are driven by bassist Kasim Sulton, while the live expanse of “The Seven Rays” is watered down. The velvet excuse of “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” is rather forgotten once the collective’s prog promise is revealed in the funk of “Abandon City” and taken to the hilarious heights in “Eastern Intrigue” where vocal polyphony reigns, but it doesn’t deliver the punch there is.
Of course, the group harmonies-filled Todd staples “Hello It’s Me” and “Can We Still Be Friends” are retained, yet Rundgren’s guitar wail in “The Last Ride” is just as powerful emotionally. And if “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” sounds slightly chaotic, it’s a celebratory piece: Todd and UTOPIA were clearly glad to be back in action – raw yet engaging.