That '70s show with Todd Rundgren coming to Riv

Thom Jennings/contributorTodd Rundgren performs May 5 in Cleveland, Ohio. He'll be at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda on Wednesday.

“I am enjoying this show, even though I thought I might not because it is so much of that normal material. We put it in a more interesting context, it’s more like storytelling, so it makes it fun and I am having fun with the audience reaction to the material because this is the stuff everyone is familiar with, so I am enjoying the reactions.” Todd Rundgren said, talking by phone from his home in Hawaii last week about his current music and book promotional tour.

Rundgren returns to the Historic Riviera Theatre on Wednesday with a show that is certain to please fans looking to hear Rundgren’s songbook from the 1970s.

Todd’s “Individualist” hybrid book/concert tour is designed to promote his recently released autobiography. The book, a series of mini-stories, chronicles Todd’s first 50 years. Todd’s current set list highlights his most prolific era as a songwriter and solo performer in the 1970s.

“What I am trying to highlight without being too obvious is the evolution in my songwriting. The initial songs are traditional subject matter, such as relationships and such. As time moves on the subject changes to one’s internal life,” Rundgren said about the first set of the show. The second set is reserved for deeper cuts and changes each night.

All the solo “hits” are there served up chronologically for the most part. There’s the first performance of “We Gotta Get You a Woman” on a full tour, a heartfelt, traditional version of “Hello It’s Me” and a sublime version of “Can We Still Be Friends.” Whether you fell in love with Todd’s guitar-driven rockers or keyboard driven '70s pop gems, you will get a healthy dose of both.

The 70-year-old musician seems like he is constantly on the road. Last year he toured extensively with Utopia for the first time in more than 30 years, and over the last decade he has been touring virtually non-stop.

“I still enjoy the performing and production work is non-existent,” Rundgren produced albums by Meat Loaf, Hall & Oates and Grand Funk and many more in the 1970s. “There are other ways to make money even if people don’t buy records, we sell shirts and other stuff, and while I cannot tell you how many albums I sold over the last few months I sure know that I sold a lot of books.”

The initial run of “The Individualist - Digressions, Dreams & Dissertations,” the long-awaited autobiography, sold out on Amazon upon its release, which meant some fans had to wait weeks for copies to become available. More copies have been sold at book signings across the country.

“You can say everything that is written in the book has also been written about in the music, so I am just filling in the back story and what made the music what it is.”

The 1970s was a fruitful era for Rundgren. From 1970-1978 Rundgren released 8 solo albums, two of them were doubles, and one was long enough to be a double but was squeezed onto a single disc. That represents over a third of his solo output, and helped Rundgren build a dedicated fan base that continues to grow.

“In the most basic sense they are my customer base. It’s about pleasing your customers, but even more importantly there are a lot of friends in my fan base. We have met and done things together at gatherings and other events. They have become a great sales force, they leave the fan events and concerts, and tell people they had a good time and they keep a good vibe around the brand, so to speak.”

Rundgren’s presence in the 1970s was immortalized in the first episode of the television series “That ‘70s Show,” which centers on the cast attending a Todd Rundgren show in 1976. That doesn’t mean Todd is stuck in the 1970s, but don’t expect a new solo album anytime soon.

“I’m not in a rush to do a new album, and I have joked with the guys in the band that the response to this show has been so good that what I do next will probably get (crapped) on,” Rundgren joked.

In the meantime, fans attending Wednesdays show can enjoy “That Rundgren’s '70s show.”

Tickets for Todd Rundgren at The Riviera Theatre on Wednesday start at $49 and are available at Rivieratheatre.org.

    

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.