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Todd Rundgren Performs a Life-Affirming Set for Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

As a longtime fan of Todd Rundgren, I've been in the unique position to have seen him in a variety of configurations in a live setting. From the support of an a cappella chorus, a trance DJ or a Robert Johnson-blues inspired backing band - Todd has always been good for a few surprises. But, the man himself probably never imagined the scenario that would see him embark on a 25-date national tour while never leaving the cozy confines of his Chicago home base. Still, an occasion such as this occurred when we were on hand as media to watch Rundgren and his large band perform a live online concert for fans in Nashville, Tennessee on March 06, 2021.

Todd Rundgren seen above in 2015 - is still Clearly and Nearly Human.

Todd Rundgren launched his 2021 Clearly Human Virtual Tour on Valentine's Day with live performances geo-fenced and tailored to a different U.S. city. Produced by the live streaming company NoCap - each show will emanate from a Chicago venue (the most convenient time zone to allow for 8 p.m. showtimes in every market). However, the events will be "localized" to give both the band and the fans a sense of place.

In Nashville, Todd took the stage and soon made some city specific remarks concerning honky tonks, hot chicken and bachelorette parties. That banter and some pre-show scenes of Music City landmarks helped distinguish tonight's concert as earmarked specifically for the Tennessee capitol. However, after a year of minimal live concerts the where was less important than the how or why.

"I had already been thinking about other ways to deliver my product," Rundgren, 73, told Rolling Stone by phone from his home in Kauai, Hawaii. "And then the pandemic happened and that kind of made everybody else think that possibly a different way of doing this might be good to have for a backup plan."

"My tour was moved, like, three times because nobody knew what the trajectory of (the virus) was going to be. So, when it got moved again, I asked the promoters if they would allow me to try this virtual touring experiment that I felt was ultimately inevitable."

For this report we're not going to give away too much as Todd has gone on record that he already is a million dollars in to footing the production that includes paying for his expanded and excellent nine-piece band - Kasim Sulton (Bass), Prairie Prince (Drums), Eliot Lewis (Keys), Gil Assayas (Synth), Bruce McDaniel (Guitar), Bobby Strickland (Sax), Steven Stanley (Trombone), plus the erstwhile "Global Girls": Michele Rundgren, Grace Yoo, and Ashle Worrick (Background Vocals).

The songs seemed geared to a variety of human issues and themes that fit with the Clearly Human concept nicely including "Real Man", "Unloved Children", "Compassion", "Change Myself", "Can We Still Be Friends?", "Hello It's Me" and the night's closer - "I Love My Life". As with the human condition the evening wasn't perfect with the technological demands on the undertaking resulting in minimal buffering and screen locks. But, overall the production, performance and presentation was nearly flawless and proved that the time has come for a new way to think about touring in the new post-pandemic reality.

The only thing that struck us as a missed opportunity was the static setlist that was exactly the same as previous nights on the tour. For this experimental run of dates it would seem that if you want to bring in diehards - night after night from across the country and around the world - you might switch up the songs. But, to even change out four tunes a night would probably add weeks of rehearsal and additional expenditures to the unproven concept.

For many years in the early days of the Internet Todd Rundgren's web presence was considered a bit of a running joke. He promised a state of the art Virtual Todd experience but there never was much to the early incarnations of his website. Maybe he was just ahead of his time because in 2021 Rundgren delivered one of the most unique "concert tours" and online experiences the world has ever seen. If he emerges victorious and in the black from this monumental effort he is well positioned to offer many more takes on the theme. I vote for the solo experience next to really strip him down to just his human self.

We enjoyed the 2021 Clearly Human Virtual Tour in Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on TODD RUNDGREN and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Todd Rundgren | NoCap Live


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