Todd Rundgren, Royal Festival Hall, London

2.00

Since his mid-Seventies heyday, Todd Rundgren has always been preaching to the converted, so his religious-themed show is at least appropriate, though unlikely to extend his popularity beyond its current limits.

Since his mid-Seventies heyday, Todd Rundgren has always been preaching to the converted, so his religious-themed show is at least appropriate, though unlikely to extend his popularity beyond its current limits.

The stage set is ingenious, a series of five Gothic arch lighting rigs, one each for the four band members and a larger one for Rundgren. Fold-down keyboards attached to the rigs allow the bassist and guitarist to switch quickly between strings and keys, and the combination of lights and back-projections behind each of the four players' individual risers affords a wide range of illumination. The effect is akin to religious statues set in their own little niches, a notion accentuated by costumes that present them as a priest, a pope, a swami and an oriental monk. It's an amusing conceit, particularly since the drummer, notwithstanding his bishop's mitre and sunglasses, brings to mind Father Ted's fearsome Father Jack. Rundgren appears in three-inch platform boots, knee-length trousers, wraparound shades and a fetching ankle-length brocade coat, which is discarded during the first song.

The performance is in two halves, separated by the most leaden version imaginable of "Green Onions" - whoever thought this an appropriate vehicle for this quartet of unreconstructed prog-rockers needs their head examining: compared with the taut brevity of Booker T & the MGs' original, their solo-ridden version is an abomination. The first half features Rundgren in his pomp-rock mode, with a clutch of songs - four taken from his current Liars album - questioning religious precepts and assumptions. But while the impact of the opening "Truth" is tremendous, the rest of the set can't quite live up to it.

Although sensible and well-argued in many respects - "Fascist Christ" is especially pertinent in urging the separation of church and state - their effect is, if anything, diminished by the bombastic presentation. It's good advice delivered at a gazillion decibels, and more than once I found myself wishing Rundgren were doing solo acoustic renditions, as the melodies disappeared under the layers of keyboards and pummelling drums. This is the masculine half of the show - Rundgren's overwhelmingly male fanbase can be gauged by the enthusiasm with which the Net nerds in the audience sing along to "I Hate My Frickin' ISP" - followed, after a seamless costume-change, to suits of purest white (for the band) and garish orange (Rundgren), by the more feminine side.

For this latter half, Rundgren goes back to the church to recast himself as a soul crooner, opening with the light funk-fusion of "Soul Brother" before slipping into a series of extended pop-soul ballads, the best of which is the smooth, loping "Sweet". Nearly all are extended way beyond their acceptable length, the set eventually collapsing in on itself during seemingly eternal versions of "Born to Synthesize" and "Feel It". It's as if they can't find a way to finish these songs, the band just vamping over and over and over as yet another solo is tacked on to the end in a show of preposterous prog-rock posturing.

For non-believers - and even a few formerly diehard fans, as well - this was a gruelling service to endure.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition