Rundgren: Live in Japan
(1990) - Alchemedia Productions (Image Entertainment)
by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
94 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered,
Amaray keep case packaging, film themed menu screens with sound,
scene/song access (17 chapters - see track
listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0),
a sad state of affairs when the once phenomenal Todd Rundgren does
his show in a decidedly Vegas style, replete with a Huey Lewis look
alike and a schticky backup band. This is a far cry from his Utopia
days. But then again, if Kasim Sulton knew that he'd have to don the
ridiculous outfits that this band wears, there is no doubt that he'd
have opted out. Hell, I have seen Todd Rundgren during his Utopia
days and I can tell you that I'm looking on milk cartons for his
picture, he is that far removed.
Todd Rundgren moved in stages during his career. Starting out as
the key element of Runt with We've Gotta
Get You a Woman, to his time with Nazz that provided the
wonderful Hello, It's Me and
the pop gem, I Saw the Light.
His career continued with his pop solo outings (Legend
of Mink Hollow) and his rock forays with Utopia (Oops!
Wrong Planet). Eventually, Todd devoted all his energies
as a solo artist, creating extraordinary albums of pop handiwork.
Todd also developed a strong ability to produce recordings,
providing some popular bands with unforgettable productions.
This DVD is disturbing in that it redefines Rundgren, possessing
the ability to reconfigure peoples' perception of his talent.
Although recorded in 1990, Todd has been fairly inactive since,
creatively speaking, recording some bad, 'off the beaten track'
issues that fizzled critically and commercially. The crazy thing is
that watching this disc shows Rundgren, who is no stranger to doing
wildly different things, on a strange road in an even stranger
place. But it also reveals, for those with a sharp critical eye and
who is familiar with Rundgren, that he hasn't lost any talent at
all. He has just misdirected his energies. And for the life of me, I
don't know why.
This show, recorded at the Tokyo Sun Plaza Hall in 1990, with its
Vegas styled production, introduces Todd and his bandmates (11 in
all), including 3 very voluptuous backup singers. The show, part of
his tour to support Nearly Human,
as detailed on the opening scene, is big and distracting. Most of
the Nearly Human album is
showcased here, with a large smattering of his solo material thrown
in to satisfy the concert goers.
Todd becomes a wildly gesticulating vocalist, dressed in a
western-styled suit with his campy and highly choreographed band
providing able backup. He moves about the stage in what becomes
hilarious behavior for that of a once popular rock star. All said,
this show is acceptable for peripheral Rundgren fans. I tested this
on my wife, who knows very little of Todd except that I once took
her to a Utopia show in Chicago at the cool Park West, and his radio
hits. I played her Hello, It's Me,
which I felt to be a butchered Vegas Jazz piece, not the pop diamond
that I know and love. She told me that it was fine. Of course, this
speaks volumes to me but that's another story.
Incredibly, stars of Rundgren's talent usually can extend their
careers deep into the twilight of their lives. But it seems as if
Rundgren has become too eclectic, a disrupting parody of himself.
This hinders what we all know can be an illustrious career, that
could generate more great albums just as he has created in the past.
I like these songs from Nearly Human,
but they need a better production to present them. An example of
what Rundgren truly is can be heard on Love
of the Common Man. He delivers this song in great
fashion, acoustically and without backup. It highlights the talent
of Rundgren and provides that glimpse into what he can still be.
The concert is shot on film with grain galore, that is especially
seen in the lights. This makes for poor video, as artifacting is
seen throughout. We should have gotten better. Again, as this is a
concert film, stuff like this is usually forgiven. It doesn't
detract from the entertainment. The sound, however, is stunning. In
5.1, the soundstage is elaborately expansive, providing the
perception of well placed instrumentation. The stereo mix is equally
Sadly, there are no extras on this DVD. What you see is what you
get. But it may be the saving grace of this forgettable concert. It
would be tragic to have any indication of the real talents of Todd
Rundgren revealed to us after viewing this reprehensible show - like
peeling unsightly skin from a succulent orange.
I would love to see Todd Rundgren under better conditions with a
non-structured show. Perhaps Rundgren should get back to what we
know he's capable of... and leave the eclectic behavior to others.
Can't Stop Running
Something to Fall Back On
Love of the Common Man
Can We Still Be Friends?
The Waiting Game
Love in Action
The Want of a Nail
Hello, It's Me
I Love My Life