When hometown boy Todd Rundgren returns to his old stomping grounds in Upper Darby to play the Tower Theater on Nov. 19, he will not bring his usual bag of tricks. In fact, Rundgren doesn’t do anything “usual.” Ever.
This show will definitely be for the hardcore Todd-heads and Utopians. No “Bang the Drum All Day.” (Don’t dare yell it out, either, or you will be mocked!) No “Hello It’s Me.” No “Love Is the Answer.” No most of the songs you know. Instead, this two-hour performance is a re-creation of the first two Utopia albums from the early to mid-’70s.
This tour is decidedly not for the uninitiated, but it’s a true treat for those who have followed the “Todd Is God” philosophy since the early days. With the formation of Utopia, Rundgren took his pop leanings and made a progressive turn. Equipped with three keyboardists, he pushed the limits of song length, rivaling Yes. And so, Utopia’s 1974 album stretched the seams of how much music can fit on vinyl.
This project came about as a benefit concert in New York for original Utopia electronic keyboardist “Moogy” Klingman (as in Moog synthesizer). Earlier this year, other original Utopia members like drummer Kevin Ellman got together—for the first time in more than 30 years—to raise money for Moogy’s cancer treatments. They had such a good time that they decided to take it on the road. The plan was for Moogy to join them, but, unfortunately, he’s been too ill to perform.
I recently spoke to longtime Utopia bassist, vocalist and keyboardist Kasim Sulton. Although he wasn’t a member of Utopia until 1976, he joins this tour. His description of the music: “Rush meets the Beatles.” In addition to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, the album Another Live will be performed, plus a touch of West Side Story and a cover of “Do Ya,” which was originally done by the pre-ELO band, the Move. (Listen to my interview with Sulton at wmgk.com.)
The rehearsals are done, the music is challenging, and the band is having lots of fun. It promises to be magnificent for those tried-and-true Rundgren fans, and it will be especially sweet since it’s both the last show of this tour and in Rundgren’s home burg.
But remember! Don’t go if you expect to hear anything else but these two albums. You won’t.
Where: Tower Theater, 69th and Ludlow streets, Upper Darby.
When: Nov. 19, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $112-$374. Visit livenation.com.