Concert Review: Rundgren pulls together Rockford Symphony, rock

June 6, 2012

Todd Rundgren performed a two-night concert special with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra June 1-2 at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford. (Photo by Richard S. Gubbe)

By Richard S. Gubbe
Contributing Writer

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra (RSO) had a mere week to prepare for a two-night concert special with Todd Rundgren at the Coronado Performing Arts Center June 1-2. The RSO received the sheet music just a week before the show and had just one rehearsal with the accomplished rocker before showtime.

And while most RSO members were enthused to play with the 1970s and 1980s rock icon, not all embraced the gig as life-changing, some members said afterward. After all, symphonic collaborations rarely work, and classical musicians often feel above simple rock ’n’ roll. What transpired, however, was a gentle blend of Rundgren’s timeless pieces mixed with the classical structure to create a concoction of memories with pleasant results.

The infusion of rock with a symphony worked for Emerson, Lake and Palmer in the 1970s when the group combined with an 86-piece orchestra for a blockbuster tour. Rundgren’s idea wasn’t as grand, but the Coronado’s audience of gray beards and grandmothers was quite enthused.

Rundgren said his promotion team went around to various orchestras to “explore who might have some interest, and lo and behold, the Rockford Symphony had the interest, so here we go!”

He kept to his original charts, not expanding any songs for orchestral elaborations. The 63-year-old has plenty to choose from with more than 30 albums since 1970.

He pulled together his longtime concert standards along with one song he rarely plays live — “We Got to Get You A Woman.”

That’s the third time I’ve done that song in the last 40 years,” Rundgren told the Friday crowd.

He also performed “Bag Lady,” “God Said,” “The Wailing Wall,” “Flamingo,” “Hello, It’s Me,” “Can We Still Be Friends,” “Property,” “Onomatopoeia” and “I See The Light.”

Rundgren came prepared for the music mix as he threw on a white tie-dye full tuxedo with his long, multi-colored hair and tinted glasses. Although he concentrated on delivering vocals back and forth, he played guitar on a few songs, including “Flamingo,” which easily lent itself for an orchestra to perform.

Near the end of the Saturday night performance, women threw roses on the stage, and he responded by accepting them with warmth.

A limited number of pieces were on the playlist. He ran out of songs from the main show, so he did a second helping of “We Got To Get You A Woman” on Saturday night. Twice the treat for a number he rarely takes out of the bag, and no one minded a bit.

Some RSO members responded to the appreciation with meeting the crowd at the stage on Saturday night, shaking hands with the satisfied group that didn’t want to leave.

Despite the lack of rehearsal time, the symphonic fusion worked well, at least for Rundgren fans.

From the June 6-12, 2012, issue

One Comment

  1. Giancarlo

    June 6, 2012 at 6:59 am

    I thought the collaborative performance worked outstandingly well. Also, I’m convinced the sound quality was better than any concert I’ve seen, ever. Yes, the graybeards and grandmas were out in numbers, and there was simply a terrific interactive vibe throughout the evening.

    I thought the show was remarkable for many reasons, but two key reasons stand out: 1) perhaps most of all as a showpiece for the incredible range of musical styles that has come from TR’s career, and 2) the no holds barred approach to song content—while some comes are pop candy (Gotta Get You a Woman, Can We still be Friends), some of the songs address intense, thoughtful, and/or controversial political and religious topics (Fascist Christ, Mammon). The latter ‘guitar’ songs had the entire crowd on the main floor rocking, stomping and loudly singling along. Indeed, I’m surprised the writer didn’t comment on the “heavy” lyrics that has gotten TR into trouble before with the religious right. Maybe he’ll get attacked again for challenging listeners with intense lyrics….

    Glad I travelled 2000 miles to attend. This was a remarkable musical event—too bad it wasn’t recorded!!


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