In the music spotlight: Todd Rundgren

SHARE In the music spotlight: Todd Rundgren
SHARE In the music spotlight: Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren has been heralded as a musical innovator, artful bandleader, composer for television and film, pop wunderkind and soulful blue-eyed pop crooner. Solo hits including “Hello, It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light,” “We Gotta Get You a Woman,” “The Want of a Nail,” “Bang the Drum All Day,” and Utopia’s “Love in Action” remain perennials at classic rock radio. His production credits include key albums by Badfinger, Cheap Trick, XTC, Hall & Oates, Meat Loaf and more. Rundgren’s many musical gifts also include playing chops that merit guitar-hero status, inspired by luminaries including Jeff Beck and Mike Bloomfield.

Nearly five decades into his career, Rundgren is still expanding his bag of tricks. 2013’s “State” album is a collection of tight pop compositions at its core, but is dressed with a kitchen-sink approach to modern electronic production. Club-friendly dance grooves, aggressive hip-hop breakbeats and hell-bent synthesizers embellish the hooks of “Serious,” the frenetic “Collide-a-Scope” and the quirky “Angry Bird.”

“I have something in my mouth for you,” teases Rundgren during “In My Mouth.” “Might be a word, could be a kiss.” The recent song coalesces Rundgren’s affinity for classic melody and wordplay with inventive sonics. The sound and structure are reminiscent of below-the-radar gems from Thomas Dolby’s “Astronauts and Heretics” album.

The Park West has been a favorite local stop for Rundgren. Recent trips prior to supporting “State” included 2009’s full performance of 1973’s imaginative “A Wizard, A True Star” album, supported by Utopia keyboardist Roger Powell and longtime sideman Kasim Sulton on bass, in addition to keyboardist Greg Hawkes of The Cars.

Rundgren’s current, monthlong tour is billed as “An Unpredictable Evening with Todd Rundgren.” In addition to solo and Utopia favorites, the shows have featured covers including Cheap Trick’s “Hello There,” Arthur Brown’s “Fire,” Captain and Tenille’s “Muskrat Love” and novelty hit “Running Bear.”

* Todd Rundgren, 8 p.m. Nov. 13, Park West, 322 W Armitage, Tickets $45 (ages 18+over, SOLD OUT); parkwestchicago.com.

Jeff Elbel is a local free-lance writer. Email: elbel.jeff@gmail.com

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