Q&A:

Todd Rundgren plans an 'unpredictable' evening in the Granite State

By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor
August 03. 2018 1:27PM
As a producer, Todd Rundgren has worked on projects with Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, Meatloaf and Hall and Oates. 
If you go...
WHAT: An Unpredictable Evening with Todd Rundgren

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth

TICKETS: Starts at $49

INFO: flyingmonkeynh.com; 536-2551

Todd Rundgren famously played all the instruments, sang all the vocals and acted as producer for his seminal 1972 double album “Something/Anything” album, but his 2018 Unpredicable Tour is leaving the set list up to whim.

Will he play “Hello it’s Me” or the kitschy “Bang the Drum” Sunday in Plymouth’s Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center show? No one knows ... not even Rundgren himself.

The Renaissance man of music — he’s a songwriter, video pioneer, producer, recording artist and software developer — talks with NH Weekend about spontaneous set lists, reteaming with his Utopia band, turning 70 and why he fans are “resigned” to not hearing all his hits.

I understand that this is being billed as an “unpredictable evening.”

It’s kind of an informal evening of … (known) material and also a whole of material that people may or may not be familiar with — depending on when they grew up or what kind of radio they listen to, or in some cases, I can pretty much guarantee that they haven’t they haven’t heard the song before. (Laughs) It never would have been released as a radio song.

So, it’s essentially (about choosing among) a long list of songs, 50-60 songs, more than we could ever play in an evening. I give the band the first song before we go out, and then after that I just start calling the songs out as I am inspired to. So, it’s unpredictable in the sense that nobody knows — even me — how the set is gonna unfold. But also (because) the material is pretty wide ranging. It’s not simply my hits. It’s music from all areas, and all different genres.

Can you tell me some of the highlights of the Utopia tour? I understand it had more than 25 years since you guys were last out?

More than 30 years; it was close to 35 years since we had done a tour of the United States. The band got together in the early ‘90s for, like, two weeks in Japan, and that was about it. It was quite an experience.

You know, the fans had been sort of requesting something like this literally for decades. We finally figured out how we could put it together — what are all the pieces that we needed, and all the different entities that needed to be involved — and in the end the tour last about seven weeks. (Laughing) After, after all those decades of trying to put it together, we went out on a big seven-week tour, and now we’re done.

And now you’re doing a whole bunch of solo dates?

Doing solo dates, and we’re continuing to do fan events throughout the year. I turned 70 this year, so the fans like to celebrate whenever I lapse another decade. So we had a big gathering in Virginia the week of June 22, which is when my birthday was, and then we went to Europe and had one in Scotland just about a week and a half or two weeks ago, something like that, and we’ll be doing another one in northern California in October. And right after that we go to Australia and do one there.

So, you’ve been celebrating your birthday all year.

Yeah, essentially, when I turned 60 we had a big event out here in Kauaii, where I live, and about 250 people showed up from all over the world. And in the 10 years since then, our situation here has changed. We don’t have the same facility that we had when I turned 60, so we essentially let the fans decide where they wanted to do it. We got proposals from all over the place and we narrowed it down to four proposals, and two of them have already been accomplished. So essentially it’s like the first block-chain party.

Will you be doing any pieces from 2017’s “White Knight” album (which featured collaborations with artists including Joe Walsh, Trent Reznor, Donald Fagen and Robyn)?

We have a couple in our arsenal that we can play. The White Night tour was a fairly elaborate affair. We had not only the full band but I had a couple of backup singers and dancers for that. It was highly choreographed, almost like a Broadway play (with) distinct acts in it and a lot of video. So we’re not carrying it at that level of production. But we can and have played songs from the records. We probably will haul out a couple of those but again it’s kinda unpredictable.

It’s whatever you’re in the mood for?

I couldn’t say which ones and what night. It will just be as it occurs to us.

I have to say your album “Something/Anything” was everything in the early ‘70s. Why are these songs so enduring?

I think it’s because I don’t play “Hello, It’s Me” all the time. If I always did what was expected then people would eventually say, ‘You Know, I don’t really have to go to a show because it’s gonna be the same as it was the last time.’ And it may be the reason people why … you know, like, big fans of the Grateful Dead, because they never know what was gonna to happen at a show. Their shows were never the same. I think part of it is that unexpected nature — wondering exactly where I’m gonna go and how much of a challenge it’s going to be.

Most of my fans, at least the hardcore fans, have resigned themselves to that.

Resigned?

Yeah, they realized the futility of expectations (laugh) ... They go along for the ride.

I would imagine that allows you to explore so many different styles ... jazz, punk, funk, and now you’re doing symphony work. There’s a lot of material there.

We’ve got a lot to work with, yeah. I’m dong a benefit for our foundation, the Spirit of Harmony, that will be in Chicago right before we start the second leg of my touring ... and that will be with the symphonette, kind of a small orchestra, at the Hard Rock in Chicago. Later on in the year I go to Iceland with a group that does David Bowie tributes, and we’ll be playing with a full orchestra and chorus in Iceland.

So, yeah, my time is sprinkled with other little interesting things here and there. Early next year before I go out and do any sort of touring on my own, I will do another one of these rock cruises (laughs), with a bunch of artists mostly from the ‘60s.

And I’m still recording and I’m still doing collaborations, and some of those ideally will be released before the end of the year. And also before the end of the year — probably sometime around thanksgiving — my autobiography will finally be released.

Oh, that’s exciting.

Yeah, that’ll be interesting. I’ve never had a book published before so … or at least a book released under my own authorship, so that will be interesting, yes.

What made you want to do a book? I mean that lays bare your life for better or worse.

I didn’t necessarily want to do it but it’s the kind of thing where if you don’t do it someone else will do it and you won’t like it when they do it.

You might as well as have your own voice in it?

Yeah, exactly.


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