Heading to Rundgren’s sold-out show at the Bearsville Theatre near Woodstock NY, I remembered the ’70s and the slow-paced hits I loved such as “Hello it’s Me.” I knew that Rundgren had lived in the Woodstock area and had a recording studio there, but a little research revealed how many different kinds of performers he had worked with over the decade, from Meat Loaf to Ringo Starr. The packed house didn’t hear much of that.
I expected a lot of songs from his new electronica-heavy album State, and that’s what we got. Rundgren stood on a raised platform sided by his drummer and guitarist. All three wore futuristic goggles and the high-intensity laser towers shooting light into the theater made many in the audience wish they had goggles. Bearsville was Rundgren’s kick-off concert; many of the upcoming dates in Connecticut and New York City would be in larger venues, where the lights would work, but they were overkill here. In the small balcony, most fans closed or averted their eyes (one viewer, either lucky, prepared or just incredibly hip, sported dark sunglasses).
Rundgren sang and played the guitar occasionally (to the delight of the audience), but most of the time he poked and prodded at a bunch of pizza-box size computers on stage. A couple of times, the synth did not go as planned—Rundgren, grinning, took it in stride and told hecklers he’d get it fixed for future shows. For those fans waiting to hear his classics, he “generated” a few in an encore set with a techno beat that increasingly garbled his voice—some folks around me were grimacing. When I asked Rundgren, who now lives in Hawaii, why he choose Woodstock to kick off his tour, he said it was to be in a familiar setting, and added, “Don’t review this one, it’s the first.” Well, I am reviewing, and am still a fan.
– Ken Kleinberg