Here we have a neat little package that showcases the musicianship and songwriting talents of legendary, prolific rocker/producer Todd Rundgren, alongside his more than capable band, who are all proficient musicians in their own right - namely, John Ferenzik on keyboards; guitarist Jesse Gress; drummer Prairie Prince; and Kasim Sulton on bass. Featuring a full show on DVD (clocking in at nearly two hours) and the audio on a separate CD (abridged, of course), this is a live audio/visual document of a concert that took place on 15th December, 2015, at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut.
Filmed in an intimate-ish looking venue, atmospherically lit and all-seated (save for a few punters who get up to dance now and again), the stage is surprisingly wide, deep and tall, so there's enough scope for different camera angles/movement etc, and the show's been captured well. It's also been edited in a nicely casual manner, with slow-fades/dissolves between each shot, so this is a refreshing example of anti-MTV/post-classical editing. Rundgren and his musical brethren rock it out for the most part, with classic tracks like the upbeat, celebratory, anti-work anthem, 'Bang the Drum All Day', and the foot-tapping blues stomp of 'Kiddie Boy'. There are also a few soulful interludes, such as the medley of 'I'm So Proud', 'Ooh Baby Baby' and 'I Want You', and moments of mellower, soother, soulful sways, like 'Lost Horizon'. Everything's delivered with authentic emotional depths and with all the zest of a bunch of musicians who are evidently having fun on stage. And Rundgren is sporadically chatty throughout, between songs, with a laid-back, friendly demeanour, as he chats away with sincerity and joviality to his audience. It's certainly an enjoyable watch/listen with the plethora of "hits" drawn from his extensive back catalogue. The CD is a nice addition in this release, and sounds great in its own right, but the DVD is the way to go for the fuller concert experience, in sensory and entirety terms!
Sound/picture-wise, the DVD is great. Well, okay, the audio is limited, with only a single track available (a default LPCM), but this is more than adequate and dynamic in its nicely balanced resonance. And, being a DVD, this is just a standard definition presentation of the concert, of course; but, the bitrate of the MPEG encode is high enough (peaking at well over 7 Mbps) and, upscaled by my Blu-ray player, the image looks as clear, crisp and detailed as one could expect for the medium. Although not provided for review here, for HD enthusiasts, I gather this show also has a simultaneous release on Blu-ray, so that might be your preferred option, anyway.
In terms of bonus content, half an hour of interviews are included on the DVD where band members quiz each other, and they're loaded with both fun and serious insights, but with the emphasis firmly on the light-hearted. Rundgren himself, for example, says that he eschews what's regarded as the most popular music at any particular point in time and expresses distaste for its formulaic nature, especially what he describes as the "victim thing... your Sam Smiths and Adeles where you're just like a victim on every song...ughhh!" The man's not wrong there - solipsism in the lyrical content of each and every song of an artist does indeed lapse into dull, self-centred tedium. Also as part of the half hour, Gress delivers a lesson in how he keeps his Fender Strat in tune, given his extensive use of the whammy bar... this is actually a very interesting segment, and guess I've been spoilt over the years with my double locking Floyd Rose system across a range of guitars, so haven't ever needed to contemplate any alternative method. So, yep, this was certainly insightful for me.
I'm guessing my only criticism of 'An Evening With Todd Rundgren - Live at Ridgefield' would be that a 2CD/DVD package might have been nice, particularly for Rundgren completists who would want to own the concert in its entirety in audio form. As such, it is what it is, and I think fans of the man's work will be more than satisfied by what's been released here.
AN EVENING WITH TODD RUNDGREN - LIVE AT THE RIDGEFIELD
Review by Mark Holmes
109:54 (DVD - show)
26th August 2016
DVD: 1) Intro / I Saw The Light; 2) Love Of The Common Man; 3) Open My Eyes; 4) Remarks; 5) Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel; 6) Black And White; 7) Love Science; 8) Buffalo Grass; 9) Determination; 10) Lost Horizon; 11) Bang The Drum All Day; 12) Soothe; 13) Kiddie Boy; 14) Black Maria; 15) God Said; 16) Drive; 17) I'm So Proud; 18) Ooh Baby Baby; 19) I Want You; 20) Secret Society; 21) Love In Action; 22) Couldn't I Just Tell You; 23) Can We Still Be Friends; 24) Hello It's Me; 25) One World; 26) Credits
CD: 18 tracks
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...fans of the man's work will be more than satisfied by what's been released here."