Todd Rundgren’s “ME/WE” Tour LIVE! at BergenPAC

Spotlight Central
Spotlight Central

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By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

Hundreds of devoted music fans saw the light on Thursday, May 2, 2024 when musician Todd Rundgren made a “ME/WE” concert tour stop at Englewood, NJ’s BergenPAC.

The ultimate rock cult hero, Rundgren was born and raised in the Philadelphia area and made a name for himself during the late 1960s as the lead guitarist for the psychedelic blues band, Nazz. When the ensemble disbanded in the early ’70s, Rundgren scored as a soloist with his 1971 single, “We Gotta Get You a Woman,” and his breakout 1973 album, Something/Anything. He achieved continued success in the ’80s with his 1983 single, “Bang the Drum All Day,” and by touring and recording with his band, Utopia. A composer of film and TV scores as well as a producer of albums including Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re an American Band and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, Rundgren was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

Inside the BergenPAC auditorium, electronic music blasts, and colored lights quickly swirl as guitarist Bruce McDaniel, keyboardist Gil Assayas, bassist Kasim Sulton, drummer Prairie Prince, and woodwind/keyboard player Bobby Strickland take the stage to avid applause.

A wailing guitar accompanies a low, powerful voice coming from backstage vocalizing, “The visitors were never seen/They missed my monologue between,” on the rock ballad, “I Think You Know,” before Todd Rundgren makes his on-stage entrance singing and playing a wailing electric guitar solo under purple lights.

The crowd reacts with cheers and applause as Rundgren and Co, segue into the R&B rocker, “Secret Society,” where Rundgren renders a scorching solo prior to calling, “Don’t you remember me?/We were a secret society,” accompanied by solid instrumental playing and tight four-part backup harmonies from his band members.

A fan in the crowd yells out “Todd!” as drums crash and roll and guitar chords ring out under white lights on the slow 6/8 rocker, “Weakness.” Then, Bobby Strickland plays flute as Rundgren gestures and sings on his infectious pop tune, “Stood Up.”

Blue mood lighting shines as Rundgren soulfully croons, “Now I guess it’s too late to speculate on things as they might have been” on “Lost Horizon,” a rhythmic R&B number featuring strong instrumental playing by bassist Kassim Sulton and drummer Prairie Prince.

Concertgoers cheer as Rundgren grabs his guitar and slides into the rocking “Buffalo Grass,” where precision background harmonies support Rundgren’s powerful vocal as he wails, “Like buffalo grass/You crawled across my heart/Oh, like buffalo grass/Wrapped yourself around my heart.”

The percussive sound of Prince’s claves starts off “Beloved Infidel,” where Gil Assayas’ swirling keyboard accompanies Rundgren’s soft vocal, and Bruce McDaniel is featured on a slow and mournful guitar solo. Rundgren stands center stage as he sings “Hit Me Like a Train,” which has music lovers’ heads bopping as colored lights shine through the smoky haze.

Prince plays a marching beat while Rundgren’s pleading voice sings, “Ever wonder where/Or why she had to go?” on the plaintive “Wouldn’t You Like to Know?” Then, demonstrating his vocal range, Rundgren sings the free and easy “Sweet,” where music lovers clap along to the tune’s uplifting “Sing and shout it, tell the world about it/The truth is sweet” message.

Grabbing a baton, Rundgren conducts the ensemble on the majestic ballad, “Kindness,” which features Strickland playing oboe and flute and the band generating a dynamic performance on this dramatic orchestral piece which is accompanied by swirling and flashing lights.

Rundgren bends his guitar strings on the rocking, “Woman’s World,” a high-energy number which has concertgoers happily tapping their toes to the infectious beat.

Dramatic black and white lighting accompanies Rundgren as he croons, “It’s all in black and white/They say there’s only one kind of love/You have to choose just right,” on his electronic R&B tune, “Afterlife.”

The crowd cheers, and Rundgren and the band sail into the humorous reggae tune, “Down with the Ship,” where Rundgren plays slide whistle and his crew cries out, “We’re going down with the ship!” A fan shouts, “I love you, Todd!” as Rundgren’s unaccompanied voice starts off “Honest Work” where he’s joined by bassist Sulton and guitarist McDaniel vocalizing on this a cappella number.

Strickland plays tenor sax, Assayas solos on synthesizer, and McDaniel is featured on electric guitar as Rundgren dances and sings on the upbeat “Rock Love.” After opening with bird calls and pad synth sounds, Rundgren and friends segue into “God Said,” where Rundgren advises listeners to “Just get over yourself” on this ethereal R&B number.

Rundgren raps out a vocal on the funky hip-hop tune, “Fascist Christ,” and is accompanied by four-part vocal harmonies as he croons the bluesy “Hawking,” where Strickland’s alto sax wails and Rundgren emotes powerfully and soulfully in his falsetto voice to audience hoots and hollers.

To conclude tonight’s show, Rundgren is supported by flute, keyboards, bass, guitar, and drums on the rocking “Worldwide Epiphany,” which has music lovers happily moving to the groove as lights dance. When Rundgren screams, “Yeah!” concertgoers respond in kind, rising to their feet and cheering while the number builds to a powerful conclusion.

For the first time this evening, Rundgren speaks, simply stating, “Thank you.” He and the other musicians leave the stage but soon return for an encore medley which starts off with his Something/Anything pop hit, “I Saw the Light,” which instantly has audience members singing along. After segueing into the rock ballad, “Can We Still Be Friends,” Rundgren concludes his medley with a segment of his biggest radio hit, 1973’s “Hello, It’s Me,” which has fans joining in with Todd on the song’s “Think of me” coda as colored lights illuminate the stage.

Slowing things down, Rundgren continues with an encore performance of “The Last Ride,” soulfully singing, “It’s the last ride/Our little game is over/It’s the last ride/It’s time to take you home,” on this slow and bluesy rock waltz which features a Bobby Strickland soprano saxophone solo and a crying Todd Rundgren guitar solo.

Audience members hoot and holler as they demand yet another song and Rundgren and Co. respond by delivering the slow rocker, “Fade Away,” where Todd sings, “The day is done, the blinds are drawn/The sound of afternoon is gone/The corner store has locked its door/And everyone has left for home.” At the conclusion, the crowd continues to stand and cheer as Todd thanks his bandmates prior to stating, “Thank you and have a safe trip home. We love you! Goodnight!”

To learn more about Todd Rundgren, please go to todd-rundgren.com. For info on upcoming great performances at BergenPAC — including Yes: Epics, Classics and More with Jon Anderson on June 1; The Happy Together Tour featuring The Turtles, Jay and the Americans, The Association, Badfinger, The Vogues, and The Cowsills on June 12; and Lou Gramm, the original lead singer of Foreigner, on June 29 — please click on bergenpac.org.

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Spotlight Central
Spotlight Central

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