Following on from other ToddStock events around the world including Sydney’s recent Todd-A-Roo to celebrate Todd Rundgren’s 70th birthday, Adelaide’s show at the Crown & Anchor is the last of four supported and backed by the Davey Lane’s All Stars rechristened temporarily as Davey Lane’s Drunken Blue Roosters.
After an enjoyable half hour set of melodic pop performed by Davey Lane’s combo, they return to the stage to back Todd Rundgren along with his wife Michele, and bring us past midnight and into November. Although it’s Halloween, that doesn’t appear to be the thematically relevant but drummer Wolfie appears in character as a youthful Ringo Starr, while Todd in a stripped black and white shirt and fluoro yellow glow-in-the-dark sneakers is reminiscent of a Future Sailor. Of interest is that Todd has played in Ringo Starr and & His All-Starr band and that Ringo is the only surviving Beatle (Paul died in ’66).
Tonight and for the tour the set list has remained relatively static and there is an almost a mirroring of Todd’s idiosyncratic alternating across a variety of genres and styles of music throughout his career in the choice of songs played. Excepting his first album after he left the Nazz, Runt (which was a band album at the time but has come to be regarded as a solo release in retrospect), the set includes songs from every one of Todd’s albums up until 1982’s The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect and last year’s collaborative White Knight.
The first song International Feel from A Wizard, A True Star segues into the second, Real Man before Todd picks up a pale blue guitar for I Saw The Light. During The Night The Carousel Burned Down, Todd places his hands and fingers on his head and turns like a toy ballerina while Michele makes faux robotic movements and hits her tambourine to match the mechanical fairground rhythm. The onstage roleplaying continues with Todd appearing like a preacher performing a sermon in Compassion. To the expected calls for requests in between songs, he responds, “We don’t do requests. If there’s a song you especially don’t want to hear, keep calling it out”. The next song is a stated “return to rock”. Bleeding is a bar room boogie complete with Todd guitar soloing and a flickering lighting ending. Utopia’s Crystal Ball is prefaced with, “Although I like this next song, I’m glad it’s the last time I’m going to sing it”. This song deliberately sounds like early Beatles (Can’t Buy Me Love) and has Davey Lane initially holding his guitar high on his chest and playing it like the early Beatles. There is an apparent Beatles’ theme with Wolfie’s appearance as a young Ringo Starr (and sometimes Keith Moon) and at one point Todd counts the number of people on the stage and then adds the sound man as the “seventh Beatle”.
For the next song, Todd exchanges places with Michele at the back of the stage for her to take lead vocal on Todd’s collaboration with Robyn, That Could Have Been Me and then gives the other members of the band a break while he and Tony Featherstone on keys perform the obligatory cover of Red Peters’ bawdy ballad Blow Me (You Hardly Even Know Me). Todd invites the audience to sing along with, “You must know the lyrics by now” and finishes the song with his best orgasm face. Afterwards, he asks, “Is everyone relieved now?” He follows Time Heals with Can We Still Be Friends and conducts the “la’s” as he almost scat-sings them and the audience join him unprompted.
Couldn’t I Just Tell You, another song from A Wizard, A True Star, bookends the set and the band leave the stage, returning after a brief sojourn offstage to commence the encore with the audience sing along of Hello It’s Me. After Lucky Guy, the encore is completed with Sons Of 1984 and A Dream Goes On Forever both from 1974’s Todd, with Todd attempting unsuccessfully to encourage the audience to contribute to the chorus as had occurred on the live recording included on the original LP. The promotional material including T-shirts for the tour utilise Todd’s image from the cover art of this album (which includes the track Drunken Blue Rooster from which the support and backing band for this tour takes their name) close to forty five years on from that album’s release.
Five years after Todd’s last appearance in Australia, this was an opportunity to see Todd in an intimate setting and although it was slightly uncomfortable due to the warmer weather and the small space of the band room, this was a special gig for the couple of hundred or so people that were there.
Live review by Jason Leigh