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Pop Music Reviews : Rundgren Lets the Humanity Shine Through

What’s Todd Rundgren--whose technocratic tendencies have inspired his deification by loyal followers--up to? First he titles his latest album “Nearly Human,” then he starts off his concert Thursday at the Wiltern with his old song “Real Man,” in both cases placing the music in a very human, even spontaneous setting--well, as spontaneous as a choreographed, uniformed 11-piece band can be.

Maybe Todd’s tired of being Godd. Judging by Thursday’s show--his first local appearance in two years--what he really wants to be is Daryl Hall. And why not? Save for his stringy hair and cold-ravaged voice, Rundgren showed that he’s more than got the goods: His distinct, pale-face take on Philly soul (which actually predates that of Hall & Oates) has always been the bit of humanity shining through the cosmic slop and technophilia that has bogged down much of his music.

Encouragingly, many of the night’s best moments came from the new album, which may just be Rundgren’s most solid album--and the best intersection of Thinking Todd and Feeling Todd--since the vaunted 1972 double-disc “Something/Anything.” It’s a rare figure who can write “Hawking,” a loving meditation on the spirituality of the universe, inspired by physicist Stephen Hawking, and “For the Want of a Nail,” a cause-and-effect syllogism of profound simplicity.

The irony is that by stripping his music to its most human level, Rundgren finally did allow an honest peek at the divinity that fuels it.

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The taped accompaniment that Rundgren has in the past used to fill out his sound was left Thursday to opening Big Bam Boo, an English duet whose boom-box-backed melodic songs and two-part harmonies are pleasant, but without much in the way of artistic vision.


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