Ever the chameleon, Todd Rundgren is taking on symphonic rock next

Todd Rundgren continues his chameleon-like career path with the announcement of a pair of symphony shows in Rockford, Illinois, this June. They represent his first two symphonic dates in the U.S., though Rundgren has already appeared with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra in the Netherlands, last year.

Rundgren has already dabbled in every permutation of art rock, into power pop, into dance music, into blues, into techno with his early-1990s TR-i offerings and even into new-wave redux with a 2000s-era version of the Cars. Along the way, he also became an in-demand engineer and producer, working across a similarly intriguing landscape — from The Band’s Stage Fright to Hall and Oates’ War Babies to XTC’s Skylarking, among many others.

Just last year, Rundgren issued both a bashy Yardbirds-do-Robert Johnson blues album and then an aridly propulsive synth-pop project.

Now, Rundgren will perform twice with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra on June 1-2 at the Coronado Performing Arts Center. RundgrenRadio, the longtime fan-based podcast, will present the shows, and is also playing host to a reunion event on May 31.

If you can’t get to Rockford, Rundgren will also tour again with Ringo Starr this summer, as part of the newest edition of the All-Starr Band.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Todd Rundgren. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

TODD RUNDGREN – TODD LIVE CD/DVD (2012): These days, when it comes to Todd’s albums, it’s the two-disc pop classic Something/Anything? that gets the most love. But his 1974, lesser known Todd is by far the more musically adventurous record. On this largely forgotten album, Todd goes from the pristine pop of songs like “A Dream Goes On Forever,” to styles incorporating everything from 1970s glam metal, to Zappa-esque, fusion-laced humor, to Brian Wilson-influenced symphonic sweep and beyond. The thing is, Todd displays every bit the studio sophistication of much more universally lauded masterpieces like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds or Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (both of which share many qualities with Todd, by the way). Yet, it receives nowhere near the same level of critical recognition as those albums do.

TODD RUNDGREN – ARENA (2008): Rundgren for the first time in decades records an album of loud, concert-ready rock. True to its title, Arena is unabashed, hook-filled power rock ideal for arena-sized venues. It’s also a throwback to that time when such music was popular enough to regularly fill those large venues. Nearly every single-named track on Arena will remind you of a major act whose heydey was in the mid-seventies to early eighties time frame. Sure, Arena isn’t a particularly substantial piece of work, especially by Rundgren’s standards, but it’s consistently good and a pretty fun to listen to. It could actually entice baby-boomers to come out to see a show with the amps cranked up to ten. And that’s probably precisely the idea Todd has with Arena.

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: TODD RUNDGREN: Perhaps Todd Rundgren’s own restive muse — he’s dabbled in every major rock subgenre over the past four decades — simply makes him too difficult to categorize. Maybe Rundgren never stuck with one thing long enough. Somehow, this pop music maverick hasn’t consistently found the wider fame he so richly deserves. At least outside of our crowded listening stations at the Something Else! Reviews Towers. We love us some Rundgren. Let’s count the ways.

ONE TRACK MIND: TODD RUNDGREN AND THE NAZZ, “OPEN MY EYES” (1968): “Open My Eyes” goes all the way back to Todd Rundgren’s first stop in his long and storied musical career, those wonderful Brit-pop masters from Philly, the Nazz. The Nazz, a band that lasted for less than three years in the late 1960s, might never would have been remembered for more than perhaps the first and largely forgotten version of Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me”, if not for “Open My Eyes.” “Hello, It’s Me” was the lone single culled from The Nazz’s eponymous debut album in 1968. “Open My Eyes” was the B-side of that single. (Todd later recycled “Hello” into a monster hit for himself in 1973).

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