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Rock Around The World • July 1977   13


by Niall Krumpett

The Babys

The incredible wonder of Todd Rundgren, personified in the fourpiece outfit Utopia, premiered its revised and rejuvenated lineup in Gotham recently to the delight of a vociferous sold-out Palladium crowd. Happily ensconced in the front stall, Utopia led me on a 150-minute excursion which embraced the finest production values ever viewed by this writer since he can remember. The show opened with a• fifteen minute colour presentation via a silent film projected onto a portable screen at the front of Utopia’s stage, accompanied by a specially produced soundtrack. The flick showed people entering The Magic Dragon Theatre and what they/we saw was four vignettes, each a soundtrack in itself to the four musical pieces of each group member. In the first moments we caught Todd dressed in a dinosaur suit playing sax and later as an exhibitionist. The first segment belonged to bassist Kasim Sutton (some luscious little groupies gathered at the right side of the stage at the end of the show … how about their phone numbers, or Kas?) followed by multi-instrumental Roger Powell’s with his synthi version of “Pipeline,” accompanied by the film of himself

as a cosmic surfer. John Wilcox, drummer, was represented in the film as a mechanised animal beating on a drum at Angelo’s Disco. Todd’s Synthi segment fit in well with mystic images projected onto the screen. At the film’s end, the “Ra” sun –appeared, the screen amazingly retracted and as the dry ice began to filter out, we knew we were in for a very special evening.

The combination of “Overture/Communion with the Sun” predictably opened with the sound incredibly balanced and perfect and the 3-way harmonies strong as steel. Todd was resplendent in a wild 2-piece white tails outfit and immediately took control. “Sunset Boulevard” followed and Utopia countered with the ever-popular “International Feel” and “The Last Time.” “Jealousy” came next from the “Ra” LP on which Utopia pulled their “all change”: Todd took over the skins, while Wilcox switched impressively to bass and lead vocals. Powell played rhythm guitar and Sulton took over as lead guitarist.

The extended “Eastern Intrigue” appeared next with powerful strobes flashing thru the eyes of a 14-foot Egyptian mummy mask in a highly effective display. “Love of the Common Man” and “Seven Rays” were next on deck. The latter was an extended version from the “Another Live” album. Todd outdid himself with a stinging guitar solo backed by Powell’s unusual baroque-styled Probe work. On this tour techno-flash wizard Roger is manipulating a Probe unit, the prototype of which he co-developed. The Probe is made from lightweight airplane metal and is worn around the neck a-la E. Winter. The Probe keyboard is scanned 100 times per second by a computerised signal which controls the output of six synthis located just offstage. The final result: a mind-boggling array of backup and lead sounds from the revolutionary instrument. “Seven Rays” was a surprising and tasteful entry which culminated with a purple laser beam emanating from the third eye of the mask. The two stacks of speakers which carried the high frequencies of Todd’s vocal and guitar as well as other vocals gave out during “The Wheel.” This unfortunate

incident caused this delicate piece to become a near write-off. The defect carried thru the ensuing 3 works. The opening theme of “The Ikon” segued into “Eternal Love” featuring a concert middle of heavy jazz with Todd on soprano sax and Powell simultaneously playing trumpet with his right hand and the Probe with his left! Todd later performed cosmic duck calls with the mouthpiece of his sax–too much. Powell’s Probe intro highlighted the Leon and Bernstein tune “Somethings Coming” which segued into “The Death of Rock and Roll” and directly into “Heavy Metal Kids,” making for an interesting triple-header. The newer “Hiroshima,” a bomb-rock tune, was powerful and strange. It was during this piece that Utopia’s stage crew fixed the faulty columns. The flashpot explosions at the end of “Hiroshima” were blinding. The epic of the “Glass Guitar” was next, featuring excellent stage lighting. Wilcox’ drum solo was replete with shooting streams of water, placed directly in front of his kit, programmed to spurt out to the beats of the drums–bloody incredible! Sulton’s solo segment was followed by Powell’s in which he was challenged by a large Chinese Dragon lurking at the sides of the backdrop. Flames periodically shot forth from various points at stage front and in the end, after a hard-fought battle, Roger triumphantly vanquished the monster with his trusty Probe. Todd’s feature segment was not to be believed! His filling-rattling electric guitar solo, featuring a stereo effect and a frequency shifter (thanks re-gress) was A-1. As he was soloing, Todd climbed the 250-foot metal shell of a pyramid, placed directly over centre-stage, with uncanny grace and when he reached the zenith, he sat down and continued to shell forth an amazing solo while a blinding white light came on behind him. To the opened-mouthed awe of all present. Todd then somersaulted to the floor by means of a hand-held chain! Cecil B. deMille, move over! He then smashed an ice guitar and the epic piece concluded. The long set ended with the rock anthem “Uptopia” again featuring the sparsely-utilised Laser. After a well-deserved 5-minute ovation, Utopia encored with “Couldn’t 1 Just Tell You” and the excellent “Just One Victory” in which dry ice poured from the nostrils of the mask. It is not possible to use any other superlatives for this incomparable show–they cannot be found. On the strength of this presentation, Utopia must be placed in the Top http://www.ratw.com/of International touring hands–say no more.

The fine pairing of the Al DiMeola Band with Weather Report brought rock back to The Beacon Theatre recently for two SRO shows. Openers sixman DiMeola really cooked. Al has assembled a fine cast of musicians for this tour led by Eddie Colon on timbales and Eric McCann on bass. The sound was loud and clear: perfectly balanced and the crowd enthusiastically responded to all of the repertoire, especially to those pieces from DeMeola’s two solo albums. The motifs for most of the pieces were Latin-based and haunting, all driven home by the fluid on stage manner of DiMeola and his fast, clean sound. The powerfully heavy moments of their set were well-received by this lowly scribe as he reached for another celestial sphere. Falling into this area was a scorching simul-lead by keyboard and guitar which

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