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Nearly Human, Completely Rundgren: Todd’s 1990 San Francisco Concert Revisited

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Todd Rundgren - WarfieldTodd Rundgren’s 1989 album Nearly Human was conceived with a simple mandate by the artist: record a set of songs that could be performed live in an “R&B revue”-style setting. To that end, it was recorded live with few overdubs. Rundgren intuitively knew that these songs needed to be strong enough to stand on their own; stand they did, and do.  The album itself was reissued earlier this year by Edsel, and now the Esoteric Recordings label (part of the Cherry Red Group) has premiered a recording from the subsequent tour as Live at the Warfield Theater: San Francisco, March 10, 1990.  This is the latest Esoteric release from the Rundgren archives, with 2012 also having seen a first-time stand-alone issue of the lost Disco Jets album from Rundgren and Utopia.

This new 2-CD release, labelled as part of Esoteric’s Todd Rundgren Archive Series, has a similar track listing to the now out-of-print Nearly Human Tour: Japan ’90, released in 2003 by Sanctuary Records.  In fact, every song on that release is also heard in a version here.  But whereas that live recording from the same tour (recorded just two months earlier on January 10, 1990) offered just seventeen songs, Esoteric’s new release boasts a generous twenty-two.  Every one of the songs on Nearly Human is reprised live here with the exception of Rundgren’s “Fidelity” and Elvis Costello’s “Two Little Hitlers,” a CD-only track at the time of the album’s initial release.

Hit the jump for the track listing, order link and more!

While Rundgren opens the concert with his high-octane classic “Real Man,” he follows with a sequence from Nearly Human including “Parallel Lines,” written for his off-Broadway musical Up Against It.  The diverse set includes other familiar Rundgren songs like “Compassion,” “Can We Still Be Friends,” “Love of the Common Man” and “Hello, It’s Me.”  Rundgren and his crack band also tackle a soulful medley of songs by Marvin Gaye including “What’s Going On”,” “Mercy Mercy Me” and “I Want You.”  One of the concert’s penultimate moments is a rendition of the poignant “The Want of a Nail,” which in its duet form with Bobby Womack on Nearly Human became Rundgren’s final charting single to date.

That band has ample room to show off on Live at the Warfield Theater.  The large group consists of Lyle Workman (guitar), Byron Allred (keyboards), Vince Welnick (piano), Larry Tagg (bass), Max Haskett (trumpet), Bobby Strickland (saxophone), Michael Urbano (drums), Scott Matthews (percussion) and the trio of Jenny Muldaur, Michele Gray (later Rundgren’s wife) and Shandi Shinnamon on backing vocals.  Workman, Urbano and Tagg all formed the core band for the Nearly Human album along with keyboardist Brent Bourgeois.  (As the band Bourgeois Tagg, Workman, Urbano, Tagg and Bourgeois recorded the 1987 LP Yoyo with Rundgren producing.)  The concert also preserves Rundgren’s then-timely commentary, with banter about Marla Maples (!) and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

An eight-page booklet featuring new liner notes from Mark Powell is included in this slipcased edition, and the concert has been mastered by Ben Wiseman from the original master tapes.  The sound quality is largely pristine.  With Rundgren at the top of his form and a diverse set list based around one of the artist’s most creative albums, Live at the Warfield Theater should be at the top of any Todd fan’s wish list.  It’s available now from Esoteric Recordings, and can be ordered at the link below!

Todd Rundgren, Live at the Warfield Theater: San Francisco, March 10, 1990 (Esoteric ECLEC 22352, 2012)

CD 1

  1. Real Man
  2. Unloved Children
  3. Parallel Lines
  4. Can’t Stop Running
  5. Compassion
  6. Secret Society
  7. Something to Fall Back On
  8. Love of the Common Man
  9. Tiny Demons
  10. Cliche
  11. Can We Still Be Friends
  12. Mated
  13. The Waiting Game
  14. Love in Action

CD 2

  1. Lost Horizon
  2. Marvin Gaye Medley (What’s Going On/Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You/Lost Horizon – Reprise)
  3. Feel It
  4. Rock Love
  5. Hawking
  6. The Want of a Nail
  7. Hello, It’s Me
  8. I Love My Life

Written by Joe Marchese

January 4, 2013 at 10:02

Posted in News, Todd Rundgren

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