Monday, September 07, 2009

Todd is godd in Akron once again

A once in a lifetime musical event is happening in Akron this weekend. Why we were so lucky to have Todd Rundgren and most of Utopia with us to present for the first time ever A Wizard a True Star (AWATS) in its entirely is not clear. I'd like to think that it was the beauty of the Akron Civic Theatre that lured him here.

Many years ago, when AWATS was first released, Todd's tour stopped at the Civic and I was fortunate to get a really good seat for that event. Highlight of the performance was Todd singing "Neverland" while perched on top of a towering stack of amps.

AWATS is my favorite of all Todd's work. It contains amazing variety, with Todd at his most clever and beautiful in terms of musical composition. From "Da Da Dali" to "Zen Archer" to "Rock and Roll Pussy" -- the music and lyrics captivate without a single let down moment. "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel" is astounding in its emotional liquidity, the song flows over and under you, and you just don't want it to end, but then the recording morphs into something else and you have to finish it and play it all over again to recapture the feelings and images swirling in your head.

I did play that album endlessly, using it as musical inspiration for countless drawings. This was the album that made me "see" music in a visual way and forever after AWATS, music was integral to my creative process as a visual artist. It wasn't just background sound. Musical notes and the interweaving contrasts and harmonies all began to take on a visual life within my work. AWATS also taught me gobs about color and not just lessons learned from staring at the album cover while listening to the recording for the umpteenth time.

So when I heard that Todd was going to be in Akron for two days, I got online at the start of ticket sales and managed to get a row Z ticket for opening night. Months later, and the performance date was here! It was wonderful arriving at the Civic last night, as the sold-out audience flowed through downtown headed toward the brightly lit marquee. This was the way it used to be and ought to be again! What great concerts used to be held regularly at the Civic! 'Twas there I saw the Kinks for the very first time, as well as Todd and many more greats of the day. Let us hope that more and more artists find their way back here.

Opening for Todd was Utopia! Totally unexpected, and what a soaring run through favorite tunes! "Abandon City," "Back on the Street," "Last of the New Wave Riders," "Libertine," "Hammer in My Heart" -- all made me want to run home and pull out the original albums. Yes, vinyl albums, because I never got these on CD. Some I know I bought on cassette tape and played them until the tapes choked. Guess I'll be doing a big download festival of Utopia tunes later today. Roger Powell and Kasim Sultan sounded as good as ever last night! What a treat!

My pix from the concert are not the greatest, as I don't have professional photo gear, but a few shots came out well enough to give an idea of what the concert was like.

AWATS opening with an International Feel.


You Don't Have to Camp Around:


Battery running out of juice and I end up with this hallucinatory vision of Todd at the finale:

Let's all sing "Just One Victory" one more time!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

P L A Y Festival reflections

The final week of the Play Festival coincided with the first week of actual school (real students not just teacher meetings) so blogging fell by the wayside. However, the final week of the festival was highly motivating in terms of focusing on the craft of teaching acting. This being The Year of Grotowski, and having the New World Performance Lab working and living in Akron is indeed cause for massive celebration!

We were given a demonstration of how the company develops their work and a sneak preview of their latest project called "Gilgamesh" which is, in case you didn't know, one of the oldest stories on record. The ensemble have been immersed in their Frankenstein project for over two years now, so it was fascinating to see them working with source material so far removed from Mary Shelley and those surrounding her summer of ghost stories.

Cheers to the company for consistently inviting audiences in to respond to their works in progress. I remember seeing Frankenstein in its infancy, then watching various performances of it over the course of the past two years. By the final weekend of the Play Festival, the actors reached greater depths than ever before, while the flow of the piece was nothing short of electrifying.

The festival ended with a lovely party in honor of Mary Shelley's birthday. A fantabulous time was had by all! Let's do it again next year!