With unauthorized live releases proliferating in the E.U. drawn from radio broadcasts of variable quality, it’s refreshing to see Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint continue its Todd Rundgren Archive Series featuring concert performances in excellent sound. The latest such release, Live at the Old Waldorf, is drawn from Rundgren and Utopia’s Saturday, August 5, 1978 concert at the San Francisco venue. Recorded for KSAN-FM, this release has been remastered from the original ¼-inch stereo master tapes. The 2-CD volume follows last year’s Live at the Electric Ballroom, recorded just a few months later (October 1978) and the impressive Live at the BBC: 1972-1982 box set.
The concert preserved here has much in common with that of Electric Ballroom. As with that release, Live at the Old Waldorf features the “classic” four-piece Utopia line-up of Rundgren (guitar/vocals), Willie Wilcox (drums/vocals), Roger Powell (keyboards/vocals) and Kasim Sulton (bass/vocals). Both concerts, too, were part of the Back to the Bars tour, with Electric Ballroom hailing from the second leg of the tour. Back to the Bars was commemorated on a double live album drawn from performances at the Bottom Line in New York, The Roxy in Los Angeles, and the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland.
This performance occurred a couple of weeks before the Agora Ballroom date on August 23. Rundgren and Utopia played the Old Waldorf on August 4-6, and concentrated primarily on material from Todd’s solo albums including his most recent, Hermit of Mink Hollow (released in April 1978). The so-called “Easy Side” of Hermit was tapped for the now-perennial “Can We Still Be Friends,” and the “Difficult Side” was the origin of the funky, upbeat “You Cried Wolf,” which opens Disc Two of this set. “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” from Todd’s breakthrough Something/Anything opened the Old Waldorf concert, and “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” and the hit single “Hello, It’s Me” were also performed from that seminal LP.
Something/Anything‘s remarkable (and remarkably non-commercial) follow-up A Wizard, A True Star yielded the dramatic “Just One Victory,” and its equally expansive successor, Todd, premiered the pair of “The Last Ride” and “A Dream Goes On Forever.” (The latter ballad was played by Rundgren on solo piano.) The epic “Eastern Intrigue/Initiation” was culled from 1975’s Initiation, and “Love of the Common Man” and “Black and White” both originated on its 1976 follow-up, the half-covers, half-original album Faithful. A quartet of songs (“Back on the Street,” “Abandon City,” “Gangrene” and “Trapped”) were plucked from Utopia’s most recent offering, 1977’s more overtly pop-oriented Oops! Wrong Planet. One past Utopia album, Another Live, was also recalled with the performance of “The Seven Rays.”
In all, Live at the Old Waldorf shares thirteen tracks with Electric Ballroom. But both releases find the band in fine fettle at the height of their powers, and both are enjoyable and entertaining journeys through one of the most diverse songbooks in pop and rock. Live at the Old Waldorf has two pages of new liner notes from reissue producer Mark Powell; it’s been freshly remastered by Ben Wiseman. You can order this new addition to the Todd Rundgren Archive Series at the links below!
- It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference
- Love of the Common Man
- Abandon City
- The Last Ride
- The Seven Rays
- Can We Still Be Friends
- Back on the Street
- You Cried Wolf
- A Dream Goes on Forever
- Black and White
- Eastern Intrigue/Initiation
- Couldn’t I Just Tell You
- Hello, It’s Me
- Just One Victory
All tracks previously unreleased.