Todd Rundgren had a simple idea for his 70th year. The difficulty was in implementing it. Take one international rock god and his wonderful wife, blend in a few dozen devotees, garnish with some Australian rays of sun, and you have the perfect recipe for one helluva shindig to celebrate a 70th birthday (his fourth, this year).
The last week of October proved to be decidedly special for fans of musical polymath and 2019 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominee Todd Rundgren.
Like-minded folk from Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, the U.K., the U.S.A., and even a handful of Australians, gathered at the historic UNESCO World Heritage site Cockatoo Island, just a ferry’s throw (or, if you were really lucky, a zippier journey via watertaxi with Todd and Michele) away from Circular Quay, in Sydney’s harbour for ToddAroo, for several days full of fun and adventure, and hanging out with the Rundgrens of course.
The location was perfect, with the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in view.
Curiously, there are no cockatoos on Cockatoo Island. There are, however, dozens and dozens of seagulls, screeching at all hours.
Most of us camped, or, as they now call it, “glamped”, near the water’s edge.
The more fortunate were accommodated at the slightly more luxurious surrounds of Heritage House, at the top of the hill.
Opening night consisted of a special welcoming dinner in a wine bar, including a ‘Coat of Arms’ pizza with, you guessed it, emu and kangaroo. Yum! Also on offer were crocodile spring rolls. And Todd’s first taste of Vegemite. “Potent!”, was his verdict.
Activities included a boat cruise, pop quiz, and a coach trip to the world’s 3rd (or 4th, depending on who you ask) oldest national park (Royal National Park) – where Todd was greeted with a didgeridoo performance. He seemed genuinely moved by it.
We were also treated to a screening of the insightful documentary, Todd Who?, produced by two of the organisers, Gavin Bond and Ian Abercrombe.
The organisation was impressive. Tight deadlines were met. Everything appeared to go like clockwork.
Lucky us also got to see Todd and his wonderful local band, The Drunken Blue Roosters, led by Davey Lane (guitar), Brett ‘Wolfie’ Wolfenden (drums), Tony Featherstone (keyboards) and Luke Hodgson (bass), rehearse at hipster Sydney venue, Frankie’s Pizza.
The band being die-hards, concocted a unique and special setlist, which also contained a sublime version of Todd’s duet with Robyn, ‘That Could Have Been Me’, performed by Michele, with some songs Todd hasn’t performed in years, if ever! A fact which is sure to provoke many fans who weren’t blessed to be there.
“Now I’ll have to go back to my native land and cop a lot of shit about it”, he joked. “Why not us? What are we, chopped liver here?!”
The end of ToddARoo came too fast, although most of us followed the tour to Sydney and Katoomba, with old friendships renewed, new friendships made.
The Rundgrens don’t have to do this. They could spend more time in their unique home on the glorious isle of Kauai, rather than being with admirers who are constantly (albeit politely) chewing their ears off with countless questions. And answering with grace to every single one of them.
But they do and we love them for it.
Thanks Michele and Todd for giving us a wonderful break from this world of insanity we are currently living in.
Here’s to your 75th, in five years time.
See you back here for ToddARoo 2!
If you wanted to see the great man and his terrific band in action, you’re too late! All gigs sold out not long after they were announced.
The last two shows are tonight and tomorrow:
30th October, Melbourne, John Curtin Bandroom
31st October, Adelaide, Crown And Anchor Hotel
International Feel (from A Wizard A True Star, 1973)
Real Man (from Initiation, 1975)
I Saw The Light (from Something/Anything, 1972)
Love Of The Common Man (from Faithful, 1976)
The Night The Carousel Burned Down (from Something/Anything, 1972)
Compassion (from Healing, 1981)
Long Flowing Robe (from Runt. The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren, 1971)
Let’s Do This (from White Knight, 2017)
Sleep (from White Knight, 2017)
Bleeding (from Runt. The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren, 1971)
Crystal Ball (from Utopia’s Deface The Music, 1980)
That Could Have Been Me (from White Knight, 2017) Performed by Michele Rundgren
Drive (from The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, 1982)
Time Heals (from Healing, 1981) Incidentally, Time Heals was the 8th music video ever played on MTV during its first broadcast on 1st August that year
Can We Still Be Friends (from Hermit Of Mink Hollow, 1978)
Open My Eyes (from NAZZ, 1968)
Couldn’t I Just Tell You (from Something/Anything, 1972)
Hello It’s Me (from Something/Anything, 1972)
Lucky Guy (from Hermit Of Mink Hollow, 1978)
Son Of 1984 (from Todd, 1974)
A Dream Goes On Forever (from Todd, 1974)
Most nights also included the witty, Blow Me (You Hardly Even Know Me), originally performed by Red Peters, 1984.