April 28, 2005

Joe Jackson & Todd Rundgren at the Beacon Theater

Yeah, I know, I've been to the Beacon twice in less than a week. As our common sense seems to be inversely related to our age, Jim and I made the trek into Manhattan on a work night (well, for Jim at least, since I had the foresight to take the day off) to catch a show. Remarkably, we made good time getting into the city, parked in a cheap, well-situated garage on West End Avenue (I use Icon Parking almost exclusively because of the ease with which you can find parking spots and prices via their web page), and had lots of time left over to have a casual dinner and a stroll before the show.

So what can I say about the Joe and Todd show? Well, for starters, I really didn't know what to expect. We're both Joe Jackson fans and have seen him live before, so he was clearly the draw for us. Apart from "Hello, It's Me" and a couple of his other more popular hits (Jim even has the Nazz on vinyl somewhere in the basement), you could put what I know about Todd Rundgren in a thimble and have some room left over. I had read very little about the shows beforehand so had no preconceived notion of what they might do - I knew there was an opening act called Ethel, but that was about it. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the evening. Ethel, as it turns out, is an amazing string quartet. The two men and two women who comprise this group played a wonderful array of contemporary music with a passion that would put a lot of rock musicians to shame. After their set, Joe Jackson walked onto the stage with no introduction and no fanfare and took his place at the piano. He accompanied himself through a set consisting of a number of songs spanning most of his lengthy career, and included one that hasn't been recorded yet (I'm hoping this means there will be a new album in the not-too-distant future). The audience seemed to consist of two groups of people - the ones who came to see Joe, and the ones who came to see Todd. Joe's fan base is small but loyal, and he left the stage to a standing ovation at the end of his set. After a brief intermission, Todd Rundgren came onstage. I had no idea he would be so loopy and so much fun. He was dressed as if he had just escaped from some psychedelic institution; the patter he kept up between songs was funny, and his voice was good. He did a few numbers accompanying himself on the guitar, and then did a few at the piano. Truth be told, I didn't recognize anything he played until he went to the piano and sang "Hello, It's Me", but the Todd folks sure seemed to be appreciative of everything else, and I was happy to be along for the ride.

At the end of Todd's set, Joe and Ethel rejoined him on stage for a really rocking finale and encore that included "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Black Maria" (hey, I recognized that one, Todd). All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. We had a nice walk back to the parking garage and got home around 1:00. The clock struck midnight as we were driving along the Cross Bronx Expressway in a torrential downpour, and Jim sang "Happy Birthday" to me; it was a pretty nifty way to get another year older, and I was really happy not to have to get up and go to work this morning.

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