Todd Rundgren plays in a lot of configurations, from technology-aided one-man shows to romps with Ringo Starr‘s All-Starr Band. But the performance represented on the upcoming An Evening With Todd Rundgren — Live at the Ridgefield album and video — check out an exclusive premiere of the track “Black and White” below — is a payoff for the faithful fans who like their Rundgren repertoire to sound familiar.
“It’s a collection of stuff that rarely gets played in the same context,” Rundgren tells Billboard about the 18-song set (25 on video). “One of the downsides of continuing to put out new material is I tend to want to go out and present that material in a proper context, and often that context is not one that allows me to dwell in the past and play such an array of oft-requested tunes — and even if I do play some of those older tunes they might be re-adapted to suit the kind of presentation I’m doing.
“So these are certainly songs people want to hear every night, like the ol’ ‘Hello It’s Me’ and stuff like that. A lot of people still want to hear the material the way they remember it, and this was an opportunity to recharge the audience after kind of wearing them out a bit, and a chance for me to revisit some material that I perhaps hadn’t played in quite a long time, or in some cases never.”
Rundgren and his band — including Utopia veteran Kasim Sultan on bass and vocals and former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince — worked up some 50 songs for the tour, which were shifted in and out of the shows for a different set list each night. One — the bluesy “Kiddie Boy” from Rundgren’s early days with the Nazz — was indeed making its live debut.
“At no point during the tour did we play the exact same songs in the exact same sequence on any particular night,” Rundgren says, “so the album and DVD essentially is a snapshot but it is not necessarily a complete representation of what any particularly evening might have been. It’s just the songs we played for that particular evening. There are an equal number of songs that didn’t get played that particular evening but might’ve gotten played another evening. And that keeps us interested and also is a service to the audience because we often have people who come to more than one show, so they’ll get to hear more material than will fit into one particular show.”
“Black and White,” from Rundgren’s 1976 album Faithful, has been something of a mainstay, however. “That actually is a song that gets played with a degree of regularity,” he says. “It’s been a part of any show in which I play solo; It doesn’t necessarily require a band to pull it off. And it usually gets played in its original arrangement because more than anything it’s an opportunity for me to noodle around on the electric guitar.”
Rundgren will be doing just that when he returns to the road in October with the All-Starrs for a run in the western U.S. and Japan. After that he’s heading back to his current home base of Kaua’i to continue work on a new studio album, which will chart a course away from his recent one-man-band efforts and incorporate other musicians into the mix.
“It’s so hard to get players to show up when I feel inspired, but this time it’ll be a much more collaborative record,” Rundgren reports. “I will be working with other artists from all genres and essentially trying to get inspired externally instead of internally this time. I have some ideas and maybe something of a direction to go in, but I’m trying to avoid fleshing too much of it out to incorporate the input of these other collaborators.” For now, however, he’s staying mum on who that will be, however.
“I would like to say but I can’t at this point,” Rundgren explains. “Right now I’m in more or less informal talks with a variety of people, and at the point I actually get some input from them, then I think that signifies that we’re actually working together as opposed to talking about it and then I can say with certainty who they are.”