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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum