Booked well in advance, Todd Rundgren‘s one-off performance (in the UK at least) of A Wizard, A True Star had a great deal to live up to. First and foremost, ‘Wizard’ is one of my favourite Todd albums. Next up, it cost a small fortune – £55 for the ticket plus £41.50 train fare. Finally, there was the general overhead of a London gig to consider on top of all of this.
But, before I get to the performance of Wizard, I’d better mention the support act, Todd Rundgren’s Johnson. It’s not as saucy as it seems, being as it is a play on the fact that they (Todd Rundgren (guitar and vocals), Kasim Sultan (bass), Jesse Gress (guitar) and Prairie Prince (drums)) performed half a dozen or so Robert Johnson covers, although I have little doubt Todd allowed himself a wry smile when he came up with that name. I’m not overly familiar with Robert Johnson’s music, but I suspect it was a little more stripped back than the polished performance we saw last night, which was closer to ZZ Top (and not in a bad way) than it was to 1930’s Delta Blues.
After a brief intermission and a costume change for the band, they retook the stage with an additional three musicians augmenting the previous line-up with keyboards, synth and sax. Right from the word go it was over the top theatre backed by incredibly faithful renditions of the songs from Wizard. The performance aspect was fun and the musicianship was peerless, with Todd throwing himself around the stage in between the frequent costume changes, and appearing to have a blast in the process.
The band and backing tapes filled out the parts where a costume change or technical reasons would have made the performance a little thin, and that all integrated seamlessly. Todd’s voice and guitar was all we have come to expect from him, and he was an entirely different performer from the chatty, laid back guy we saw in Portsmouth back in 2005.
By the time the Just One Victory came around everyone was on their feet, and if you forced me to choose a highpoint, that would have been it. That’s not to say anything else fell short of that musically, it’s just that by then the whole audience was totally behind the performance.
So was it worth the effort? Yes, without reservation.
And was it worth the money? Not quite so sure on that one!
For instance, it was a little disappointing to see that they were charging £20 a time for a USB stick with a copy of the show on it. When you consider that The Flaming Lips were able to provide downloads of their last tour for £3 (okay, albeit a couple of weeks after the event), it might have been nice for them to supply everyone with a copy of the show, given the fairly high price of the tickets.
To summarise, it was a truly spectacular one off event that was further enhanced by a great (if not a little tiring!) day in London in the company of my friends.