By Rob Trucks
Todd Rundgren says that he doesn't play rock 'n' roll (and he's probably right), but that doesn't mean his live performances aren't full-on, highly stylized productions performed for devotees who follow his every onstage move with revivalist fervor.
The 55-year-old pop innovator's current 50-date excursion through America comes as support for his latest album, Liars, the thematic equivalent of Al Franken's best-selling Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.
Yes, it's shocking, but it seems no one tells the truth anymore. And the glory days of Watergate, when all we had to do was blame the government, are part of the past as well. To drive home the point, Rundgren appears on the cover as an unshaven - and possibly rabid - Easter Bunny because, you see, it's not just politicians who scurry from the truth. We lie too. We (yep, you and me) lie to our neighbors, our partners, and even to our children. Damn our dishonest hides.
Of course, every preacher needs a pulpit, and this evangelical road show comes prepared. Rundgren arrives center-stage under a cathedral arch of silver scaffolding, backed by his long-time four-piece band outfitted like religious chess pieces in their own individualized choir lofts.
Along with a healthy dose of Liars, Rundgren pulls out a few crowd-pleasing surprises during his two-plus hour show. A recent Friday night in New York City yielded "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," Red Rider's "Lunatic Fringe" as well as a seemingly reluctant encore of "Hello It's Me" which brought Rundgren to the edge of the stage to touch and be touched by the faithful - like the musical saint they see him to be, like the rock star he says he isn't. •