Although the Crown & Anchor, in retrospect, was wildy inappropriate as a venue for this show – too small to host an international act of Todd Rundgren’s status, and with a sellout crowd in attendance jammed into the band room in the heat, really claustrophobic and uncomfortable – I am still mighty glad I went to see this show.
The last time Todd came to town, playing at The Gov during his first Adelaide visit, he appeared half-hearted and even slightly disinterested, as if simply going through the motions as he delivered a relatively short set of hits and newer album tracks. It was a show that left a lot of the Todd faithful, those who had waited for so long to see him in Australia, feeling flat and disappointed.
Thankfully, this time out, the man was in a much more animated state of mind and being, re-energised by his crack Australian backing group, The Drunken Blue Roosters. This band had been put together for the tour by You Am I guitarist, Davey Lane, and the band’s sympathetic and largely note perfect playing appeared to lift Todd’s mood significantly giving him the energy to combat the heat and turn in an impassioned and fully committed performance.
The song selection was designed to please everyone, and, apart from the notable absence of 1973’s Just One Victory, Todd played pretty much all of his hits and his best-known songs, as well as offering up a generous range of album tracks that showcased his entire career.
Waves of excited relief were palpable straight after the band first hit the stage, around 10:30pm, when the instantly recognisable intro to International Feel first rang out.
It was clear from the outset that the band’s sound was full, and well-balanced, and it was great to see everyone on stage grinning broadly and loving the moment – setting the tone for the great show that was to follow.
Drummer Brett Wolfenden, keyboardist Tony Featherstone and bassist Luke Hodgson, all played as if they had been in Todd’s band for years, and not just having teamed up with him for this short five date tour, of which this show would be the last.
Todd certainly knows how to create a winning setlist, proof of which was provided in the first bracket of songs which included, coming one after the other: Real Man, I Saw The Light and Love Of The Common Man. Each one a bona fide Rundgren classic!
After such a start, it was no surprise he had the crowd in the palm of his hand for the remainder of the show, even more so, if that was possible, after he unexpectedly played an aficionado’s favourite, The Night The Carousel Burned Down, from his 1972 masterpiece, Something/Anything?
Whilst most of the evening’s set came from his astonishing run of 70s and 80s albums – songs were taken from The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything?, Todd, A Wizard A True Star, Hermit Of Mink Hollow, Faithful, The Tortured Artist Effect and Healing – there were three songs from 2017’s White Knight album which did not seem out of place in such a strong list of tunes and clearly demonstrated that Todd is still writing and producing strong material well into his sixth decade in the business.
At one point, Todd handed the microphone over to his wife, Michele, and this one time back-up singer for The Tubes, powered her way through a magnificent rendition of White Knight’s, That Could Have Been Me, while Todd removed himself to the shadows of the back corner of the stage.
Davey Lane’s guitar work, right throughout the show, was excellent, but if I had to nitpick, it was somewhat of a surprise that someone who’s as distinctive and talented a guitarist as Todd did not pick up his guitar that often during the set.
The crowd were not complaining though and strongest responses of the night came late in the main set – after he had sung a cabaret crooning cover of a rather odd Red Peters’ ‘palate cleanser’ called Blow Me – as Time Heals, Can We Still Be Friends?, Open My Eyes and Couldn’t I Just Tell You came in a glorious, euphoric rush that had the sweaty crowd enthusiastically calling out for more.
The band’s encore consisted of a generous four song serving, bookended by Todd’s signature tune, Hello It’s Me, and the perfect pop of the timeless A Dream Goes On Forever.
The show couldn’t go on forever however, and it finished just after midnight. Then, even though people were finally free to leave and breathe in some cooler fresh air, the crowd departure was slow, as if they were reluctant to have to break the mesmerising spell that had been woven by Todd and his travelling band of Drunken Blue Roosters.
It was a great show and Todd Rundgren once again proved he really is a wizard – a true star…!
Todd Rundgren & The Drunken Blue Roosters played at The Crown & Anchor on Wednesday 31 October, 2018.