Todd Rundgren has been a staple in the diet of American rock, going back to his days as co-founder of the legendary Nazz, through to his solo efforts in the early 1970s and his later group Utopia. In addition, he’s been actively at the helm, producing a veritable who’s who of acts from Sparks to Patti Smith.
Tonight though, it’s his work as an artist in his own right – a songwriter with an impressive cache of tunes to his credit and a turn in the direction of Progressive Rock, Utopia was a direction switch for Rundgren. Primarily known as a purveyor of Pop Tunes, his detour into more complex territory had critics baffled at first. In fact his first album released in 1974, simply titled Utopia, was roundly dismissed by the then-prominent critics of the day, who lambasted it for what they deemed pretentious fluff. However, it sold extremely well – prompting Rundgren to continue that road until the mid-1980’s when he finally disbanded the group. And after a lay-off of almost 10 years, was briefly reactivated in 1992 and then reactivated again in 2011 for a series of one-off live shows.
This incarnation of Utopia is the early one, and many concert recordings during this period have surfaced, and in some cases have been officially released. The band may have gotten dissed by the press, but they were very much appreciated by the fans. It may sound a little creaky in places now, but at the time it was bold step for an artist who has steadfastly refused to be pigeonholed.
You might remember Utopia from the 70s and you might not have been around at the time at all. In either case, it’s worth checking out for the 32 minutes this broadcast concert runs. You may become a fan.