By DAN MACINTOSH
PASADENA – Todd Rundgren, who’s famously produced everyone from New York Dolls to XTC, as well as amassing a string of memorable pop hits, has created an impressive career resume. However, you can’t fully appreciate this man’s many musical strengths until you’ve seen him live. And Rundgren’s multifaceted skillset was on fine display during a recent evening in Pasadena.
‘White Knight’ Performances are Pure Gold
Rundgren concerts supporting his recent White Knight album are fully thought-out performance exercises, and can be broken up into three generalized segments. White Knight: The Chivalrock Tour begins with Rundgren dressed in a suit and tie, with his two backing vocalists looking a little like Geisha girls. Opening with the sophisticatedly electronic, “Come,” Rundgren and his dancer/singers bemoan these dark days of the President Trump era. This initial section ends with “Sir Reality,” off the State album, which fits in perfectly with other White Knight tracks and reads like a litany of untruths straight from George Orwell’s 1984.
‘White Knight’ Tour Innovative
A Range of Costume Changes
The band then leaves the stage to the video for “Dear Ears,” and returns ready to rock. Rundgren is now dressed in a sleeveless shirt, while his dancer/singers appear clothed like slutty rock chicks. Rundgren is also armed with an electric guitar. During this second set, Rundgren performs electric guitar-accented songs that include “Strike” off Arena, which – with its screamed chorus vocals – wouldn’t sound at all out of place on any self-respecting AC/DC album.
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Rundgren and band exit the stage again, this time to the video for his recent duet with Donald Fagen, “Tin Foil Hat.” When they return, Rundgren appears in a red suit, while his backing gals are wearing colorful cocktail dresses. And suddenly, he’s transformed himself from heavy metal dead ringer, to blue-eyed soul master while singing the new “Chance for Us,” which fits together well with his encore of the 70s pop hit “Hello It’s Me.”
Rundgren and Social Commentary
Three Guises of Todd
What’s so impressive about Rundgren’s three guises this evening, however, is how he could have easily performed a perfectly satisfying concert by using only one of them. For a man in his late sixties, his voice is still powerful and sure. His guitar playing is so good, he has toured in Ringo Starr’s all-star band. Most importantly of all, though, his songwriting – which is many times right on target when analyzing contemporary social ills – is absolutely on target.
Rundgren finished the tour with a performance in Santa Clarita (they have rock concerts in Santa Clarita?) on Dec. 27, and closed out 2017 at the Saban Theater on New Year’s Eve. Rundgren wears many hats, and thankfully, the tin foil variety is not one of them.