Todd Rundgren – Unpredictable Tour 2022
The Newton Theatre – Newton, NJ – July 24, 2022
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
It couldn’t be more fitting that Todd Rundgren has a tour called the Unpredictable Tour, as Rundgren himself has been and always will be “unpredictable.” This unpredictability is what Rundgren thrives on and what has made him the musical success he is…..not only as a singer-songwriter-musician but also as sound engineer and record producer. In Rundgren’s more than 50 year career he’s never stopped making music, producing music, and performing. However, being in the business for more than a half-century doesn’t mean you have to remain stagnant in the lane you started in. Any Todd Rundgren enthusiast will tell you, the thing Rundgren likes the most is experimentation and change. From his earliest days in the music industry Rundgren was never satisfied to solely pick one sound or style. His music has fallen into the categories of psychedelic rock, progressive rock, electronica, pop, R&B.
Rundgren has never been invested in critical acclaim, rewards, or honors. What’s given him the greatest pleasure over the years has been the undying devotion of his extensive fanbase, some of whom have been fans for multiple decades, and have monikered the phrase, “Todd is God.” Rundgren’s diehard fans avidly appreciate his creativity and diversity, as well as his unique persona, and eagerly delve into each of his new musical endeavors. Unlike casual fans who come to Rundgren shows to hear his commercially popular numbers from the early 70s, his diehard fans remain invested in Rundgren not for who he was, but for who he continuously proves himself to be. Over the years, Rundgren has made efforts to maintain a connection with fans, whether participating in summer retreats, arranging fan-included birthday bashes, participating in album/book signings or merely remaining after shows for photo ops and autographs. This has served to increase his fans’ devotion tenfold.
After 50 years, Rundgren could easily retreat to his home in Hawaii to relax and give up on touring. However, it’s hard to imagine Rundgren hanging up his hat and taking himself off road. Touring and sharing his music has been such a part of who Rundgren is. Unlike many other artists, Rundgren hasn’t needed a new album to send him back out on tour. With more than a half-century of music to pull from, Rundgren can easily fill a performance with any number of songs. What’s evolved is Rundgren’s Unpredictable Tour, an unpredictable incorporation of whatever songs fill Rundgren’s fancy on a given night, generally including his well-known numbers.
On July 24th Rundgren fans eagerly filled the seats at The Newton Theatre, wondering what songs he’d bring to the stage that evening. What any fan who’s attended one of Rundgren’s Unpredictable Tours knows, Rundgren does not take requests, so don’t waste your breath calling something out. In fact, the best way for a song not to be played is to call it out, which Rundgren reminds the crowd. Rundgren is fascinating to watch from the moment he enters the stage. You can’t help but find yourself smiling because Rundgren himself tends to have a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his eye. Sitting on his barstool, with a martini glass by his side, you get the feeling Rundgren is playing in a little coffee house for a bunch of his pals.
Rundgren opened the set with a return to the beginning of his musical career with The Nazz’s “Open My Eyes,” which immediately brought the theater to life. He followed with “Common Man,” and crowd favorite, “I Saw the Light,” which had hundreds of backup singers joining in on the chorus. There’s never any formality with Rundgren. He plays a song, chats with the crowd, takes a sip from his martini glass and seemingly contemplates his next number. Veering away from his own catalog of music, Rundgren added in several “unpredictable” covers to the set, including The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” “I saved all of you $50,” exclaimed Rundgren. “You probably don’t know another song by The Proclaimers, so if you were going to see their show it would probably be to hear that song. Now you don’t have to go….you just heard it! I saved you $50!” The crowd enthusiastically cheered their approval. “Let’s see what other songs we can sing this evening that will save you $50,” Rundgren said with a broad smile.
The also set included a cover of Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints.” “Now that’s a song you probably are never going to hear,” Rundgren profoundly stated. In anticipation of the next number, America’s “Muskrat Love,” Rundgren queried the audience, “Have you ever seen a muskrat? Well, when this song was written there wasn’t the internet so no one probably was looking up what this animal they were singing about looked like. It’s like a beaver with a short tale. It’s not a good-looking animal. What kind of love were they writing about?” The greatly amused crowd will never again hear “Muskrat Love” the same way!
“I’m going to sing you our version of a song now that didn’t go over well last night. However, we’e going to play it anyway. Maybe it will go over better tonight,” Rundgren said with a chuckle. As the crowd sat baffled, wondering what they were going to hear next, the band began the first notes of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Within moments the crowd realized that Rundgren’s jazzy, upbeat version, was vastly different from the intense, gritty, rock original, a completely unpredictable alteration. The roaring cheers at the song’s culmination was a strong indication that the crowd had approved.
If the songs in Rundgren’s set weren’t unpredictable enough, it’s always unpredictable what Rundgren is going to say when it comes to politics. While it’s predictable how Rundgren politically feels, as he’s made his opinions known on many occasions, at any particular performance you never know what Rundgren is going to say. “Now that we are more than halfway through the show, and no one can ask for their money back, I can say whatever I feel,” laughed Rundgren. “I’m going to tell you this, you must go out and vote…you must! Of course that’s only if you don’t vote Republican!” he stated irreverently.” Before getting back to the night of unpredictable music Rundgren empathetically shared his thoughts on Roe vs Wade, as well as some thoughts on our former president. You just never do know what Rundgren will unpredictably say.
Rundgren finished off the evening with his beloved hit, “Hello It’s Me,” and had everyone on their feet, with hands in the air for “One World.” It was definitely an unpredictable evening, both in the music performed and the thoughts expressed. However, what could have been be predicted was that an evening with Todd Rundgren is going to be energetic, engaging, and filled with wonderful music, performed by an incredibly unique, singer-songwriter-musician. Now that’s the best of all combinations and worthy of a return visit to see what unpredictability lies ahead!