Sound Advice: Todd Rundgren and Utopia (May 10)

Rock legend brings his Prog-to-Pop band Utopia back to life for a reunion tour that stops at Taft Theatre this week

click to enlarge Todd Rundgren and Utopia - Photo: Danny O'Connor
Photo: Danny O'Connor
Todd Rundgren and Utopia
Whether it’s whim, impulse or the inability to remain still, Todd Rundgren has always been a multi-genre chameleon, effortlessly switching between Pop singer/songwriter, Philly Soul balladeer, Progressive rocker, avant-gardist and much in between. With Rock reunions being the order of the day, Rundgren has now brought back Utopia, the cult band he started in 1975. With his illustrious and successful solo output, production projects with the likes of Badfinger, Meatloaf, New York Dolls and XTC and Utopia’s Prog/Pop Rock, Rundgren was one of the most prolific and eclectic musicians of the 1970s.

Beginning as a side project, Utopia rivaled Rundgren’s solo material in popularity. The band’s career and music can be divided into two eras. There was the original, exploratory ’70s phase, in which Utopia recorded complex concept records like Ra and epic, virtuosic synth-infused compositions upon which the sounds intertwined like aural Mobius strips. The later incarnation of Utopia in the early ’80s flirted with New Wave and embraced Beatlesque Power Pop. After 1985’s POV, Rundgren grew more interested in his solo work and has only returned to Utopia a couple of times since.

The current tour features Rundgren (guitar/vocals), Willie Wilcox (drums) and Kasim Sulton (bass/vocals), who performed together in Utopia in various configurations throughout the band’s initial run. Former Utopian Ralph Schuckett (keyboards) was initially announced for the tour, but backed out for health reasons and was replaced by newcomer Gil Assayas.

The current Utopia is playing two distinct sets per concert, offering a greatest-hits retrospective of each era. In a typically obtuse statement, Rundgren told Variety, “Even though we are paying tribute to the past, we’re not going to talk about the past.”

Click here for tickets/more show info.