Todd Rundgren’s Utopia Reunion Shows – January 29/30, 2011


If laughter is considered the best medicine by most – for musicians then, in contrast, music will always be their best medicine. At very least that was in the mind of Todd Rundgren and the band Utopia as they assembled on the stage of the Highline Ballroom in New York City for a two night benefit on January 29th and 30th on behalf of fellow band member Moogy Klingman (the proceeds of the reunion going toward Klingman’s treatment for cancer).

“The medicine that works best is the music,” he told AOL News recently, “and what’s happening at the end of this month is probably the best medicine the musical gods could have ordered.”

Klingman’s referring to two shows he’ll be part of Jan. 29 and 30 at the Highline Ballroom in New York City. The concerts will be special, as they will feature a reunited version of the revolutionary early-1970s band that helped put Klingman on the musical map: Todd Rundgren’s Utopia.

Rundgren and Klingman were friends back then and together created a unique recording studio, The Secret Sound, in Klingman’s midtown Manhattan loft. There, Rundgren crafted some of his most memorable work, including the solo albums “A Wizard, a True Star” and “Todd.” He also produced albums there for other artists, including the strange-but-satisfying Hall & Oates exploration, “War Babies.”

And it was at the Secret Sound where some of Klingman’s friends, a group of tight, seasoned musicians, were brought in to play on Rundgren’s solo records. The collaborations resulted in the formation of one of the era’s most compelling progressive-rock outfits: Utopia.

The band included, among others over the years, Rundgren on guitar and vocals, Klingman and Ralph Schuckett on keyboards, John Siegler on bass and Kevin Ellman on drums.

Enjoy these video excerpts from their two night reunion (excuse the visual quality since they were taken via flip phones – yet the audio is still spot on) such as “Utopia Theme” (above) and “The Ikon”, “Just One Victory” and “Last Ride” (below):



21 Responses to “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia Reunion Shows – January 29/30, 2011”

  1. Jamez says:

    Thank you 1000 X for this post Urban!!!! I’m a big ban of all the versions of Utopia, but it’s a special treat to see the first version reunite. I hope Moogy gets the treatment he needs for his cancer and I wish him all the best. Always thought Utopia were underrated as a band and should get more recognition. Great musicianship and brilliant chops! I want Todd to bring out a compilation DVD of the various Utopia line-ups from various years. I’ve also got a few of the Official Bootleg series on CD and can highly recommend Live in Japan ’79 from the Mk. 2 line up.

  2. Slap says:

    I’ll add my thanks, as well. Never saw this version of the band, but I did get lucky enough to see Mk2 group (just after Ooops, Wrong Planet) in a SMALL FUCKING CLUB (the late Bayou, in DC — where I also was fortunate enough to see the Captain on his last Magic Tour). Astounding band, and in that small space, just overpowering and glorious.

    Nice stuff!

  3. Hugh says:

    I knew a few Todd fans growing up, heard all his past radio hits (e.g. Hello, it’s me, Bang on the Drum.) I know he’s an amazing record producer. I love his work with The Tubes. But I never took the time to delve into his catalog. Where’s a good place to start?Maybe, “Something/Anything?”

    I love the quality of the top two vids but the one that gets me is “Last Ride”. I first heard this song at a Ed Palmero Big Band (Zappa tribute band) show. Ed is a big Todd Fan.
    Hmm. . . it always comes back to Frank around here.

  4. Jamez says:

    A quote from Hugh:

    I knew a few Todd fans growing up, heard all his past radio hits (e.g. Hello, it’s me, Bang on the Drum.) I know he’s an amazing record producer. I love his work with The Tubes. But I never took the time to delve into his catalog. Where’s a good place to start?Maybe, “Something/Anything?”

    I love the quality of the top two vids but the one that gets me is “Last Ride”. I first heard this song at a Ed Palmero Big Band (Zappa tribute band) show. Ed is a big Todd Fan.
    Hmm. . . it always comes back to Frank around here.

    I would say start with ‘Todd’ (1974) or ‘A Wizard/A True Star’ (1973), Hugh. I prefer them to ‘Something/Anything’ for their musical and sonic experimentation. I would also recommend ‘Initiation’ (1975) and Utopia’s self-titled debut and ‘Ra’ if you like Prog Rock. But any of his ’70s work is a best place to start. Hope this helps.

  5. Numpty says:

    Thanks for posting. The main reason i went to Knebworth in 1979 was to see Utopia (yes even more so than Led Zep) … good memories… a lovely sunny day and my 19th birthday :-)… it was great when they all swapped instruments and Todd was on the drums. If only i had gone the year before to see FZ.

  6. danny says:

    A quote from Hugh:

    I knew a few Todd fans growing up, heard all his past radio hits (e.g. Hello, it’s me, Bang on the Drum.) I know he’s an amazing record producer. I love his work with The Tubes. But I never took the time to delve into his catalog. Where’s a good place to start?Maybe, “Something/Anything?”

    Todd’s music is a lot like Frank’s in that it is hard to pick just one place to start! There are many styles he has covered over the years. I agree that the albums mentioned by Jamez are key as far as experimental nature, but a great overview, and maybe a little heavy on his more “hit” sounding material, is Rhino’s 2-CD Anthology 68-85.

  7. Hugh says:

    Jamez and Danny, thank you for your guidance for my road trip to Utopia and beyond!

  8. Jamez says:

    A quote from Numpty:

    Thanks for posting. The main reason i went to Knebworth in 1979 was to see Utopia (yes even more so than Led Zep) … good memories… a lovely sunny day and my 19th birthday :-)… it was great when they all swapped instruments and Todd was on the drums. If only i had gone the year before to see FZ.

    I wish I’d have been old enough to see that concert. Also Knebworth the year before in ’78 featured the Tubes and Peter Gabriel aswell as FZ. A dream line-up!

  9. Jamez says:

    A quote from Hugh:

    Jamez and Danny, thank you for your guidance for my road trip to Utopia and beyond!

    You’re welcome, Hugh!

  10. SOFA - Philostopher/Chef says:

    I had a vinyl double LP of Todd Live – I don’t recall if it had a title. But it had “Neverland” on it (worth the price of purchase), and “Zen Archer”, which was a melody I greatly enjoyed.. I never really got into Todd musically, but his production work was amazing!!!
    The Meatloaf “Bat Out Of Hell” album would not have hit the way it did without Todd’s touch.
    Thanks for this!

  11. Numpty says:

    A quote from SOFA – Philostopher/Chef:

    I had a vinyl double LP of Todd Live – I don’t recall if it had a title. But it had “Neverland” on it (worth the price of purchase), and “Zen Archer”, which was a melody I greatly enjoyed.. I never really got into Todd musically, but his production work was amazing!!!
    The Meatloaf “Bat Out Of Hell” album would not have hit the way it did without Todd’s touch.
    Thanks for this!

    I think that live double could be Back To The Bars. The Pursuit Of Happiness’ Love Junk album and Skylarking by XTC are other notable production works, as well as The Tubes, Grand Funk etc etc

  12. Slap says:

    A quote from Numpty:

    A quote from SOFA – Philostopher/Chef:

    I had a vinyl double LP of Todd Live – I don’t recall if it had a title. But it had “Neverland” on it (worth the price of purchase), and “Zen Archer”, which was a melody I greatly enjoyed.. I never really got into Todd musically, but his production work was amazing!!!
    The Meatloaf “Bat Out Of Hell” album would not have hit the way it did without Todd’s touch.
    Thanks for this!

    I think that live double could be Back To The Bars. The Pursuit Of Happiness’ Love Junk album and Skylarking by XTC are other notable production works, as well as The Tubes, Grand Funk etc etc

    Ditto on the Back to the Bars title, I’m pretty sure that’s correct.

    And on the list of productions, can’t leave out Badfinger’s Straight Up (one of the most perfect powerpop records ever, IMO) and the New York Dolls’ first album….

  13. Slap says:

    A quote from Hugh:

    I knew a few Todd fans growing up, heard all his past radio hits (e.g. Hello, it’s me, Bang on the Drum.) I know he’s an amazing record producer. I love his work with The Tubes. But I never took the time to delve into his catalog. Where’s a good place to start?Maybe, “Something/Anything?”

    I love the quality of the top two vids but the one that gets me is “Last Ride”. I first heard this song at a Ed Palmero Big Band (Zappa tribute band) show. Ed is a big Todd Fan.
    Hmm. . . it always comes back to Frank around here.

    A little late, but here goes:

    For his early singer-songwriter phase, go for Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (“Wailing Wall” is worth the price alone)

    I echo the Utopia recommendations, and would add Ooops, Wrong Planet as, IMO, their best effort at hitting the line between rock and prog; and, if only for their great cover of the O’Jay’s “Money”, you might want to look at Swing to the Right.

    Because he is all over the map, stylistically, there are so many routes. My personal fav of his “later” period is Nearly Human — great songs, and as soulful as he gets (including a Bobby Womack duet!). I have also enjoyed Second Wind immensely — a great live album filled with some of his most theatrical-style compositions (“The Smell of Money”, for example….)

    If you’re looking for an example of the affection he has for his roots, Faithful is well worth it — one entire side devoted to covers like If Six was Nine, Strawberry Fields, and Good Vibrations.

    And regarding his production work, I had neglected to mention in my previous post that I had utterly forgotten his wondrous work on Steve Hillage’s L and Patti Smith’s Wave. Shame on me!

  14. Hugh says:

    Well Jamez, I picked up a copy of “Todd” (“Last Ride”, was a selling point but does not represent the album at all). But this record is a total wild ride! Very experimental, even for 1974. It has a Firesign Theatre feel to it at times. I am definitely enjoying it but I think it helps to have diverse taste (like most of us do here it seems) to appreciate this album.

    I’ll try to check out the other suggestions as well. Thanks everybody. Todd has a huge catalog. Lot’s to hear.
    Pretty cool to see he’s still touring. I hate getting into music I can’t see live.

  15. danny says:

    Gee, there’s so much TR to delve into, it’s hard to pick a starting point. On the tricky side,
    – Acappella is a fascinating album IMO.
    – Deface the Music holds up well, as does Faithful.

    But my fave remains the Network album (official title “Utopia”, I think) originally a 3-sided album.

  16. davidrog says:

    I believe that Frank and Todd were label mates on Warner Brothers Records during the mid-seventies. During Frank’s Halloween show at the Felt Forum in 1975, Frank mentions Todd in a rather unflattering way.

    While playing “Black Napkins”, Frank starts reciting a narrative that would eventually become the lyrics for “Packard Goose”, his scathing attack on music critics from the Joe’s Garage – Volume 2 album.

    Apparently Frank had read an article by one music critic who had praised the previous night’s Utopia concert, while knocking Frank at the same time. Frank couldn’t understand why so many critics didn’t appreciate his music or lives shows, and wrote the “Packard Goose” lyrics in response.

    Frank really sounds choked up as he recites the words, telling the critics that “they can go suck on Todd Rundgren’s laser beam.” Afterwords, he launches into an excellent guitar solo that should have curled the hair of any music critics in attendance.

    I’m not sure if Frank didn’t like Todd personally. I think he was a bit envious of all the attention Todd was getting in the music press at the time. I’m a big fan of both Frank’s and Todd’s music, and there’s certainly room for both in this world.

  17. Jamez says:

    A quote from Hugh:

    Well Jamez, I picked up a copy of “Todd” (“Last Ride”, was a selling point but does not represent the album at all). But this record is a total wild ride! Very experimental, even for 1974. It has a Firesign Theatre feel to it at times. I am definitely enjoying it but I think it helps to have diverse taste (like most of us do here it seems) to appreciate this album.

    I’ll try to check out the other suggestions as well. Thanks everybody. Todd has a huge catalog. Lot’s to hear.
    Pretty cool to see he’s still touring. I hate getting into music I can’t see live.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed the ‘Todd’ album, Hugh. It’s my fave Todd Rundgren album. I also reckon a certain Prince Rogers Nelson was heavily influenced by this album. I would go for ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ next. Also check out some Todd/Utopia on You Tube for the visuals.

    I’m personally lacking any Todd/Utopia on DVD. Can any fans out there recommend some?

  18. Hugh says:

    I would be very surprised if Prince didn’t pick a thing or two from Todd.
    Don’t know of any Utopia DVD’s but stumbled across “Time Heals” video on first MTV broadcast in ’81. Second video in after Pretenders.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZAbtqZvcUo&feature=related

  19. Jamez says:

    A quote from Hugh:

    I would be very surprised if Prince didn’t pick a thing or two from Todd.
    Don’t know of any Utopia DVD’s but stumbled across “Time Heals” video on first MTV broadcast in ’81. Second video in after Pretenders.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZAbtqZvcUo&feature=related

    I like the lyrics to ‘Time Heals’. I find myself returning to that tune time after time. I have just given a CD of Utopia’s self-titled album to a coworker to borrow, as he’s a massive Prog fan (VDGG, early Genesis, Gentle Giant etc). I told him to listen to ‘The Ikon’ from that and now he’s hooked! I’ll probaly lend him ‘Ra’ next…

  20. Jamez says:

    Finally got ‘Healing’ (the one with ‘Time Heals’ on CD, aswell as Steve Hillage’s L which has Mark 2 Utopia on it and was produced by Todd at Secret Sound in Woodstock in’76. Never heard any music from L – only bought it ’cause it has Utopia on it and was produced by Todd. Anyone got a full list of everything Todd has produced or engineered(I know, it’ll probably be massive!)?

  21. Ken Duvall says:

    I like “Time Heals” and sometimes watch the video on Youtube from
    1980 of his band playing it live… The band sounds good in the vid
    until Todd starts playing in the wrong key in his solo….
    Ends on a sour note also….

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