For a few moments at the start of Todd Rundgren's concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday night, it seemed that he might be presenting a straightforward musical performance. Short, catchy pop songs were delivered in a cool, crisp manner, without the slightest trace of pretense. It was very nice and, almost, enjoyable.
But, as is his wont, Rundgren, the king of bumbling bombast, soon turned flashy.He and his group, Utopia, were accompanied by thundering explosions, smoke bombs, strobe lights, an electronic drum set disguised as a motorcycle, and a series of visuals whose arty aspirations were equaled only by their ludicrous content.
Roger Powell flailed away at his piano while colorful test patterns played on a screen at the rear of the stage. Drummer John Wilcox was featured in a short film sequence that borrowed freely from the work of director Chuck Statler. And in a fit of garish whimsey, bassist Kasim Sultan sang a silly love song backed by farm animal animations, with Rundgren and the rest of the gang acting like a kiddie chorus. It might have been cute. Actually, it was embarrassing.
Todd Rundgren's grand artistic visions always seem to be more than a trifle overplayed. A case in point is the name of his group, Utopia. Perhaps he should find one that is a bit more appropriate -- like Suburbia.