An Evening with Todd Rundgren: Live at the Ridgefield is a document of Rundgren’s most recent concert tour, which Pat Francis praised on this very site a few months ago. Live at the Ridgefield offers up a career-spanning set that stretches back to the rocker’s ’60s tenure with Nazz and reaches forward, in its more expanded editions, to include a song from Rundgren’s 2015 album Global.
The show is available as a CD/DVD combo, a stand-alone Blu-ray, a vinyl LP, or as a digital download. I was sent the CD version for review (no DVD), which, at 18 tracks, is a fairly sizable chunk of music; but this version is only one of three different setlists available for this release. The video versions and the digital download have the most songs (24, although the digital download tags on the non-CD songs at the end as “bonuses”), while the vinyl has the least songs (10, but 2 of those are not on the CD).
Based solely on the CD tracks, Live at the Ridgefield is a solid show that gets better as it goes along. Even though Rundgren produced and mixed the album, the live sound is a bit muddy, especially in the early going (maybe the DVD and Blu-ray feature more defined surround mixes — one can hope). The band is tight — maybe a little too tight — as they whip through ’70s favorites like “I Saw the Light,” “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel,” and “Love of the Common Man.” Nazz’s “Open My Eyes” (a personal favorite) has a satisfyingly bombastic sound, but it sounds a little rushed.
Rundgren and the band find their pocket around a third of the way into the tracklist, starting with “Lost Horizon,” a tune originally featured on Rundgren’s experimental A Cappella album; here, it lopes along on a moody bass groove. Rundgren’s voice, which sounds a little ragged at first, becomes more relaxed and effective at this point too. He also finally gets to work out his guitar on numbers like “Black Maria” and “Drive,” making for some of the most satisfying moments on the album.
Other highlights include playful renditions of Utopia’s “Love in Action” and the ubiquitous “Bang the Drum All Day,” plus a trio of ’70s gems near the end, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” “Can We Still Be Friends,” and “Hello It’s Me.”
Only a handful of the performances here rival the power of the studio originals and even fewer could reasonably be said to top them. So, even with a set heavy on hits, it seems unlikely that listeners beyond Rundgren’s devoted fanbase will want to check out Live at the Ridgefield. The fans will like it though.
An Evening with Todd Rundgren: Live at the Ridgefield is available Friday, August 26.
Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.