By Richard S. Gubbe
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