Saturday, July 18, 2015

Coming Out of the Comfort Zone

I'm one of those people who likes to know what's expected of me and exactly what will happen in a given situation. While this personality quirk means that I'm always prepared and ready, it also means that it's difficult for me to drag myself out of my comfort zone.I have been faced with many out-of-the-box situations in the past year during my treatment for breast cancer.

I was reminded of the value of trying new and different things in life during a recent dinner date and concert with my husband.

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A Birthday Gift


For my birthday this year, my husband got us two tickets to see Todd Rundgren. Those of you who are a certain age will remember the lanky, long-haired mega-talent from '70s hits like "Hello, It's Me," "I Saw the Light," and "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference." 

Rundgren's seminal double-album, "Something/Anything?" was a hit just as I was beginning to appreciate and listen to popular music.The album's big single "Hello, It's Me" is a near-perfect love song.  

In addition to his solo career, Rundgren fronted several bands (The Nazz and Utopia) and was a highly sought-after producer and engineer. He was known for his meticulousness in the studio and his ability to experiment with different sounds. He was one of the first artists to recognize that video could enhance his message. His Utopia Studios was renowned as an early innovator of music videos, and videos produced there found their way into the early rotations of MTV.

Rundgren's fingerprints are on a lot of music that chugged its way through my college and young adult years. Among the artists he produced are Patti Smith, Hall and Oates, XTC, the New York Dolls, Grand Funk Railroad, the Tubes, and Meatloaf (he was the driving force behind "Bat Out of Hell."). 

Pre-concert selfie outside of Infinity Hall
A multi-instrumentalist, Rundgren plays most of the music on his albums, which often feature eccentric, but surprisingly meaningful sounds. His work paved the way for such artists as Prince and Beck.

His new album, "Global" is no different. This time, Rundgren experiments with electronica. I've often found this kind of music cold, but underneath the complex electronic sounds are the soulful Philly-style harmonies he's known for and the warmth of the themes of community and protecting the earth. I had not heard any of his new music before the night of the concert.

A Concert to Remember

My husband and I headed out to Infinity Hall, a small venue in northwestern Connecticut best known for its concerts on PBS. We had dinner in the bistro and took our seats about 15 minutes before the start of the show. 

The stage before the show started.
There was a single seat next to me in our row. It was soon filled. "Hi! I'm Jeff. Longtime Todd fan!" he said, extending his hand. He then regaled me with stories of other Rundgren concerts he'd attended, including one at the Bitter End in New York City that was recorded for the iconic "Back to the Bars" album in the late '70s.

Jeff said staffers at the hall had told him that the roadies had been setting up the stage since early morning. I told him I had seen an electrical generator parked out back. Clearly, something was going to need a lot of juice.

"This concert's going to be a little different," Jeff told me.

A Lasting Message

We soon found out what all the fuss was about. 

The lights dimmed and a guitar-toting Rundgren burst onto the stage to the tune of "Evrybody," which is reminiscent of "Bang the Drum All Day" from the '80s . The tall, black monoliths on the stage came alive with video, as two Afro-wigged singer-dancers backed up Rundgren. 

Rundgren was dressed simply in jeans, sleeveless t-shirt, and sneakers. His signature long hair is still there. Like all of us, he's gotten older. He's now 67 years old. But the sheer energy he exuded was nothing short of inspirational. 

There was little banter with the audience. The music spoke for itself. "Blind" and "This Island Earth" warn of climate change. He celebrated women (including Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai) in "Earth Mother." He sang about the joys of finding a grounding love in "Terra Firma." The ballad "Soothe" sounded like an older, wiser sequel to "Hello, It's Me."

He ran through most of the new album, sprinkling in music from Utopia and his older hits. By the time he did the song, "Rise" I didn't want the concert to end. As the music thudded, lights flashed, and the choreographed videos played, I felt bathed in a creative force.

When the encore  finished and the lights came up, my new friend Jeff was as ecstatic as I was. "Did you hear what he did with the classics?" he asked me. I was in awe that Rundgren could surprise a longtime Todd fan like Jeff with his concert innovations. It left me with several important messages about my own life.

  • Keep it fresh. I'm sure there have been a few disappointed concert-goers who expected An Evening With Todd Rundgren and older tunes. But I was amazed at the freshness of the sound.  
  • Keep an open mind. I didn't know what I was expecting from this concert. After the surprise of the opening number, I just went along with this thrilling ride.
  • Age makes no difference. The guy is 67 and up there still rockin' it out.His music - both new and classic - is very relevant.
This concert reminded me that I've been blessed with the ability to hit the curve balls life has thrown at me. I need to keep things fresh in my own life. And I can still be on my feet, clapping my hands, and dancing to the music like it's 1976.

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Here's the song "Rise," off Todd Rundgren's "Global" CD.





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