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(210:19 (CD) / 279:05 (DVD); Purple Pyramid)
In 2011 Mark “Moogy” Klingman was seriously ill (he would pass away later that year) and his medical bills were mounting up. Todd Rundgren decided to help out his old friend and bandmate, and reformed Todd Rundgren’s Utopia to put on a show to raise funds. Of the six people who played on the debut album back in 1974 ,only Jean-Yves Labat was missing, his place on keyboards being taken by Kasim Sulton so they still had the three-keyboard line-up of the debut, plus four singers. This is a six-disc set, with two CDs of this show and two from later the same year, by which time Moogy had passed. There are also two DVDs with the set comprising the two gigs, plus some band interviews, but this review is just for the audio. To be fair, when a large disc set like this is produced it tend to be expensive, obviously, so it is only real fans who are likely to purchase it, but is it worth the effort? Well, in the first place it is a scarce recording so there are going to be some who just have to have this, but for me the vocals on the first two discs (and consequently the first DVD I expect), just aren’t strong enough. Hearing Moogy sing his most famous song, "(You Got to Have) Friends" is quite painful, but I do wonder how many people realise that he wrote one of the most important songs for Bette Midler, and took over as her musical director after the departure of Barry Manilow, plus as well as being in Utopia, Moogy played on ten Rundgren solo albums. The first gig on this set was the first time the five members of the original line-up had played together in more than thirty years, and I am not sure how much rehearsal time had been allocated, but it wasn’t enough. The audience were having a great time, as were the band, but hearing it now some nine years after the event I cannot say it is something I am likely to play again as it is ropey and too disjointed. By the time of the third and fourth discs the band was now in a far better place, with the loss of the backing singers and without distractions, and they had obviously had more time together. Again, they played all of the debut album, plus songs from others, but again it does not really feel quite right to me. My preference has always been the later period Utopia, and when comparing this against the 7-disc set which is ‘Last of the New Wave Riders’, released in 2003, there really is no comparison in my mind. That set, alongside Todd’s own ‘Can’t Stop Running’ 6-disc set released the same year, are the ones to get to really enjoy the master and his band in concert. This is okay, and I am sure fans of the Utopia are going to rush out and get this, but having listened to it all the way through a few times for review, I’ll probably stick to the aforementioned sets for pure listening pleasure.
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