Still crazy after all these years
Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson ****
PROBABLY the most frustrating thing about being a well-known musician of a "certain age" is being written off as a nostalgia act.
Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson would very much like to disagree with that accusation and, last night, they presented the evidence for the defence: a rejuvenating run through some of their older stuff, and a batch of brilliant new songs, easily as good as anything in their back catalogue. Not to mention more energy than guys half their age.
To begin with, though, five cracking pieces from an American string quartet with the bizarre moniker Ethel. Comparisons with the Kronos Quartet or Edinburgh's Mr McFall's Chamber are inevitable, but that would be doing the foursome a disservice.
"We're obviously classical musicians who got a bit lost", joked violinist Todd Reynolds. If so, long may they wander aimlessly. By the time they finished the rock 'n' roll burn-out ending of John Kings' Shuffle - a blues for string quartet - the crowd were fired up and ready for anything.
Joe Jackson, impossibly thin and sporting a dapper purple jacket, sauntered onstage, sat at the piano and launched straight into Hometown, then, without a word, his left hand picked out a few bass notes drawing warm applause as the crowd recognised the classic Stepping Out.
His writing skills haven't diminished either, as new song Take It Like a Man proved. It's Different for Girls was a new and improved take on the old favourite, while On Your Radio was slick and percussive.
He announced that he'd be appearing in a film later in the year, set at the turn of the last century, then played the song he sings in that film - Who's Your Lady Friend? - the old pianola favourite.
By no means was this the oddest song of the evening, as the audience would discover later. Joined by Ethel's cellist Dorothy Lawson on the 1991 song Drowning, he finished with the unrecorded Citizen Sane and his other signature tune, Is She Really Going Out With Him?
Todd Rundgren burst briskly onstage to a deafening roar. This was definitely his audience, and, pointing to his bright red velvet jacket, he explained that he came "dressed as a comfy chair".
Picking up an acoustic guitar, he began with Lysistrata, a powerful anti-war song. Bantering with the crowd between numbers, he ran through I Don't Want to Tie You Down and Black and White, before reinventing his big American hit I Saw The Light - bossa nova style. Having had the previous day to wander around the Capital, he noted what a scary city it was, with the haunted tours etc, so it was time to exorcise the demons - a crafty intro to Tiny Demons. A breathless Love of the Common Man followed, showing off the stamina and the power in his voice.
He announced his "entry into the Festival Fringe", playing the ukulele for Bang On The Ukulele Daily. Following the Beatles' Hide Your Love Away and his own Afterlife, Rundgren rewarded the faithful, with a soulful version of The Wheel, ending with a huge crowd clapalong.
Ethel returned to the stage to accompany Rundgren in what was the oddest song of the evening: Gilbert and Sullivan's Lord Chancellor's Nightmare.
The quartet remained onstage to accompany both singers on Pretending to Care, Soul Brother and Got the Time before taking a bow. The crowd wanted at least one more and they got it: a beautiful version of George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps sent the crowd smiling, not crying, into the night.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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