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TODD RUNDGREN w/ Joe Jackson

  Liverpool Philharmonic Hall  
  Liverpool, UK  
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

Oh dear. I knew it was going to be one of those nights as soon as we were delayed by a man and woman slowly crossing my road - with a ladder. We were then nearly hit by a passing football, the garage wouldn’t accept my mate’s credit card, and then, as we approached the venue, my mate realized that he’d left the tickets in the car and we had to go back. Consequently, we missed the string quartet Ethel. However, we arrived just in time to see this strange sickly thin alien creature, half ET/half Boris Karloff, walk onto the stage and milk the applause like some sad old luvvie. Yes, it was the man who appears to have turned into rock’s very own Richard E. Grant, Mr. Joe Jackson.

Joe’s solo set at the piano started impressively, with a number entitled (I think) Hometown. It segued into an impressive version of Stepping Out, which made me realize it’s a far better song than I gave it credit for. After that, although the set had its moments, it was downhill from here. Different For Girls, a perfect pop single in my opinion, fared less well as a solo piece as it didn’t really suit the moody introspective interpretation. Not even the closing Is She Really Going Out With Him could really save it for me. We also had some new songs with awful punny titles like Love At First Light and Citizen Sane and some old Cockney nonsense that he apparently performs in some forthcoming movie set in 1910 or something.

But I liked Jackson's singing and he can tinkle a mean ivory or however it is that rock fans describe keyboard players. So, all in all, pleasant. It’s just that there are only so many earnest piano interpretations I can take. And then, after some large scale milking of applause, the alien creature went to rest his weary -- and not inconsiderable -- forehead. For now anyway...

In the meantime, it got worse. Far worse ... Ladies & Gentlemen please welcome live on stage, the headline act Todd Rundgren. As I said, "Oh dear."

Now Todd was affable, and I’m sure he’s a really nice bloke, but really, this was bollocks. He’s just a man who’s too clever for his own darn good, if you ask me. It says something when the highlight was a response to a member of the audience who, for some reason known only to himself, shouted “When you played with Ringo Starr, you said it was your way of re-paying your debt to The Beatles.”

To this, Todd succinctly retorted “When did this turn into a press conference!” Otherwise, the high points, if you can call them that, were probably a ukulele number and a Beatles' cover (You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away).

Otherwise, the show consisted of some HORRIBLE rawk thing (Black & White?) on the acoustic, Todd over-doing the vocals (forced, affected, show-offy, etc), when at times he showed he could still sing in that sweet voice of his, and a throwaway, almost flippant, version of the pop masterpiece that is I Saw The Light. At least Joe Jackson treated his songs with respect. In his defense, though, I guess Todd was distracted by a couple dancing in front of him, in this otherwise seated venue.

Like the Ian Hunter gig I attended recently, I felt like something of an intruder in this audience. In fact, one old bloke who looked like he was dying on his feet at the front of the Hunter gig, obviously defied medical science, because here he was again. Obviously, he might well be saying the same thing about me! Anyway, this audience were a right odd bunch, not least the smelly person of indefinable gender who sat behind us and laughed at all of Todd’s bad jokes.

But as for Todd, well I could waste loads of times coming up with pithy little comments, but frankly I can’t be arsed. Because a lot of the time I just had the one same word recurring in my head ... boring. And the encore, where Todd sang in a sweeter, more restrained manner as he was joined by support acts Ethel and Alien Creature (I mean Joe Jackson), only served to remind what a wasted opportunity this was. People got on their feet as things got going with a version of -- wait for it -- While My Guitar Gently Weeps -- that, whilst far from being a pivotal moment in my life, did actually make you feel like you were at a gig and not a posy recital from some old virtuoso has-been.

Actually, I think I’m going to stop going to see old farts like this, because with the honourable exception of Brian Wilson (who was, of course, superb) they -- Roy Wood, Ian Hunter, and now Todd -- have all disappointed to some degree. It was at times like this that I’m actually glad my old hero, Marc Bolan, is dead, and with hindsight, I wouldn’t have felt any less lucky if I’d have driven underneath that damn ladder...

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Joe Jackson was better enjoyed in 2003, when he toured America with a full band.


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