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Concert Reviews:
Rundgren Rules With Osburities At The Magic Bag

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2008

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FERNDALE -- "I hear you're lookin' for a mayor," Todd Rundgren said as he took the stage at the Magic Bag on Wednesday night (Jan. 30).

And he was playing to a crowd that would have been happy to elect him.

About 260 Rundgren faithful braved frigid temperatures to catch a rare club performance by the 59-year-old artist, who started putting out music 40 years ago with his band the Nazz before launching a solo career as well as another band, Utopia. Rundgren rewarded them with a crack band -- Utopia bassist Kasim Sulton, former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and guitarist Jesse Gress -- and a two-hour show that played to the aficionado side of his audience.

Casual fans, in fact, may have found themselves lost amidst what Rundgren acknowledged was the "obscura" of the 19-song set. Only 1972's "I Saw the Light" ranked as a bona fide hit, while the sinewy guitar opus "Black Maria" and the anthemic "One World" received some radio play. And he did include a couple of '80s covers -- Red Rider's "Lunatic Fringe" and the Call's "The Walls Came Down," which tapped into some of the political themes Rundgren explored during the set.

But as he joked liberally about Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's text messaging scandal -- "I'll get over it eventually," he promised -- Rundgren filled his set with deep catalog material from the opening "Buffalo Grass" to the final encore "Worldwide Epiphany." In between were fan treats such as "Number 1 Lowest Common Denominator," "Black and White," "Drive," "Slut," "Soul Brother" and the bluesy "Broke Down and Busted," which provided a showcase for Gress' guitar work.

Befitting the intimate venue, the show had the chatty, casual feel of a bar gig, with Rundgren offering expansive introductions to many of the songs and even tripping over one of his amplifiers during "I Hate My Frickin' ISP;" "I'm sorry," he said, "for a moment I thought I was at Carnegie Hall and had all the room in the world..." But the band was tight throughout, and the repertoire gave Rundgren plenty of room for his own guitar heroics.

And while Detroit apparently doesn't need a mayor, on Wednesday Rundgren was definitely the master of the Magic Bag.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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