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Todd Rundgren at DTE, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Todd Rundgren is a bit of an odd fit for Yestival.

The veteran rocker has some prog in his past, notably the early days of his band Utopia during the mid-70s. But he is not, by nature a progressive rock artist, though fans of the tour’s other acts -- headliner Yes and Carl Palmer’s ELP Experience -- will certainly recognize and likely enjoy other pieces of Rundgren’s nearly 50-year recording career.

He’s been busy in recent years, too, with a pair of albums in 2015 and a new album this year, “White Knight,” that features collaborations with Daryl Hall, Joe Walsh, Robyn, nine inch nails’ Trent Reznor, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and more. And Rundgren, 69, remains a part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, which returns to the road this fall...

• Rundgren is mindful of expectations from the Yestival audience and is straddling a bit of a tricky line during his sets. “We usually do a two-hour show, so I have to cut that down a bit,” he explains by phone. “Right now we’re not currently set up to go full prog; I haven’t been full prog for awhile. We’ll just try to get a bunch of guitar playing into (the set). We’ll probably keep all of the guitar songs and maybe lose some of the R&B songs, I guess, to make it a little more proggy.”

Related: Yes celebrates prog rock with Yestival touring package

• For the “White Knight” album, meanwhile, Rundgren acknowledges that he made an effort to make an album that would be more tuneful and mainstream-leaning than some of his more unapologetically idiosyncratic work of the past. “I’m kind of part of that quirky auteur generation, (someone) who just does their own thing and doesn’t necessarily follow musical trends or take the obvious path,” he says. “I’ve gotten so used to my record being ignored that when I put out (‘White Knight’) I said, ‘I’m gonna go to an extra effort. I’m going to actually, first of all, try and make a record that’s more consciously accessible and the really promote the crap out of it afterwards. So that’s really where we’re at now.”

• Of the guest list on “White Knight,” Rundgren says that he “just made up a list of about two dozen people of all genres and ages that I thought I’d like to work with and began to contact them. Once I had a good number of them more or less committed, then I started to write. I wasn’t interested in doing a duets album. I wasn’t interested in singing over top of somebody else or vice versa. I wanted to highlight all of the collaborators and create a space for them to do their thing without me kind of undercutting it. So for the most part the collaborations were either me writing the basics of a song or a whole song, giving it to another artist or having another artist giving me the basis of a song...and then I write over top of that.”

• One of those collaborations, the anti-Trump “Tin Foil Hat” with Fagen, has become particularly provocative, leading to bona fide death threats and causing Rundgren and his team to increase security at certain venues. “I’ve made the assumption that anybody who is on television or in the media who is making fun of Trump is getting the same death threats,” says Rundgren, who’s publicly suggested that those of different persuasions either don’t come to his shows or step out when he plays the song. “I was on Jimmy Fallon the other night and we talked a bit and I said, ‘You make fun of Trump a lot. Are you getting death threats?’ He said, ‘Yes, I did,’ and so you can imagine what Stephen Colbert is putting up with or Alec Baldwin, what he’s putting up with. I bet everybody’s getting death threats at this point.”

• Rundgren has been working with Starr since 2012, a lineup that’s been largely intact during the past six years. “It’s a great gig,” he says. “The only downside is we’ve been playing pretty much the same set for going on five years now. It would be great if we mixed things up a little bit, but the whole point of the All-Starr Band is you gotta play the hits. It’s not that (Starr) has anything musically against your lesser-known material or material that might be known by your fans but not the public at large, but concept since he started is you play the hits. So it’s not likely I’ll be off the hook from ‘Bang On The Drum All Day’ at any point, y’know?”

If You Go

• Yestival featuring Yes, Todd Rundgren and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy

• 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17.

• DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.

• Tickets are $29.50-$99.50 pavilion, $25 lawn with a $75 lawn four-pack.

• Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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