TODD RUNDGREN – Johnson Live

Esoteric 2013

Aural and visual document of the Hermit’s bluesy phase, accessorized with dark humor and dark glasses.

TODD RUNDGREN - Johnson Live

Johnson Live

For all the versatility of Todd Rundgren whose records encompass everything from Beatlesque pop rock to rap and from heavy metal to prog, his 2010’s opus, “Johnson,” wherein the veteran got quite deep under the blues skin to present his own view of the titular Robert, a legend on all counts, came as a major surprise. More so, Todd was no slouch in delivering a good part of the album on stage, including one in Ridgefield, Connecticut, whence this performance comes. Accompanied by second guitarist Jesse Gress, drummer Prairie Prince and a man from UTOPIA Kasim Sulton on bass, Blind Lemon Rundgren, as he jokingly calls himself, refracts the perennials through his typical Anglophile lens, thus paying homage to the likes of Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, and weaves his own compositions into the Delta fabric as “a proof that the thread runs unbroken”: so it’s all about the context, then.

A good cause to flaunt such rarities as NAZZ’s boisterous “Kiddie Boy” or “Weakness” from 2008, the show starts with the jubilant “Dust My Broom” throwing its fierce funky roar over to the relaxed, if also raw and wild, “Soul Brother” but it’s the DVD-only “Black Maria” – transcendentally heavy and sinister – which, spiced with Todd’s inspired solo, results in standing ovation. Arguably, teenagers in the audience find more pleasure in the encore of “I Saw The Light” or the not-too-upbeat “Open My Eyes” that feel misplaced here, unlike the sparsely grotesque “I Went To The Mirror” that serves as a prologue of sorts to “Come On In My Kitchen” while “Bleeding” proffers much lighter skank to the overall sonic onslaught. Elsewhere, the anger of “Unloved Children” is echoed in the sludgy take on “Hellhound On My Trail” yet, although the frenzied “Crossroads Blues” comes too unhinged, there’s a twangy elegance, too, in the desperately reserved “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” and of “Boogies (Hamburger Hell)” where another kind of devil feasts on one’s soul.

Not the kind of show Todd’s fans may expect from their chameleon-like hero but one that’s all the better for it.


June 26, 2014

Category(s): Reviews, Video Reviews
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