A solo album that tested the time limitations of vinyl in 1973 takes the stage with a full band 36 years later to be recorded and released on digital platforms and, voilà! – A Wizard, a True Star … Live! is born.
Though Todd Rundgren’s voice had deepened with age and the running order was reshuffled for this 2009 presentation in Akron, Ohio, AWATS … Live! is a remarkable recreation of the wildly experimental LP, dampened only by needless fades between tracks.
The few musical changes – a spoken monologue in “You Don’t Have to Camp Around,” an extended sax intro to “Zen Archer,” Kasim Sulton on lead vocals for “Does Anybody Love You” – add to the in-concert feeling even as oddball tracks like “Dogfight Giggle,” “Rock and Roll Pussy” and “When the Shit Hits the Fan: Sunset Boulevard” almost surely benefit from some pre-recorded backing tracks.
In the midst of so much musical complexity and lyrical nonsense are stuffed melodic gems such as the soul medley of “I’m So Proud/Ooo Baby Baby/La La Means I Love You/Cool Jerk” and original compositions and fan favorites like “International Feel,” “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel,” “I Don’t Want to Tie You Down” and “Just One Victory.” It’s a haphazard musical collage that fits together seamlessly.
Rundgren was to perform the album again in spring 2020 at dates that were postponed to early ’21 before COVID-19 wiped them out entirely.
A Wizard, a True Star … Live! is a fine substitute while the fans wait.