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  • SF Chronicle: Todd Rundgren goes for modern sound with 'State'July 11, 2013

    Todd Rundgren goes for modern sound with 'State'

    Getty Images: Todd Rundgren, shown performing in Austin, Texas, in June, blends rock, soul and electronica on his 24th solo album, "State."

    Chad Jones
    July 11, 2013

    Fans who have been with Todd Rundgren since his stint with the Nazz in the late '60s and his early solo days in the early '70s have learned to expect the unexpected from the singer/songwriter/producer/innovator.

    He's done the pop thing ("Love Is the Answer"). He's done the rock thing with the band Utopia. And he's dabbled in just about everything else, having produced and engineered for artists as diverse as Badfinger, Shaun Cassidy and Patti Smith.

    Rundgren goes where his muse takes him. In 1997, for instance, he rerecorded his handful of hits for a samba/bossa nova album. And for his 24th solo album, "State," released in April, he's fusing rock, soul and electronica.

    That's the sound Rundgren will be concentrating on when he brings the "State" tour to the Fillmore on Friday. As for the fans who want to hear "Hello It's Me" or "Can We Still Be Friends?" Rundgren has this to say: "We've disappointed them consistently enough over the years that there aren't a whole lot of them left."

    Rundgren is on the phone from a tour stop in Austin, Texas, having recently resumed the tour after attending Toddstock, v.6.5, a weeklong celebration of Rundgren's 65th birthday at the Nottoway Plantation outside New Orleans with 200 of his closest friends, family members and fans.

    "Now I can rest for five years," Rundgren says.

    He's kidding, of course. He has a few more "State" tour stops before heading to Australia for a series of "An Evening With Todd Rundgren" shows, which Rundgren says might be characterized as a greatest hits evening. "But I don't have enough of those," he says. "I call it more of an arts center show, which is easier for the uninitiated to enjoy."

    Then Rundgren resumes touring as part of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band.

    With "State," Rundgren sought a more contemporary sound, and as a result he's seeing younger people in his audience.

    "They've actually discovered the music independently and not just because their parents have indoctrinated them since birth," he says. "I find that encouraging and, in some ways, vital. I did want to try and figure out what it is that's in modern music. Unlike a lot of recent records where I was attempting to sound sonically realistic, I'm getting more and more into the nether capabilities of the software I'm using."

    Rundgren, who lives in Kauai but keeps a loft in San Francisco's Mission District as a mainland pied-a-terre, isn't purposely trying to frustrate his fans, but he will admit, "I hope to confound on occasion."

    "I always was interested in artists who would surprise or who would continue to evolve or, in some cases, completely mutate into something else," Rundgren says. "To me, when an artist stays the same, never leaves the boundaries of a particular thing - that's a form of irrelevance."

    At a certain point, Rundgren says, he realized he had crossed the halfway point of his career, so he made a decision not to repeat anything he'd already done.

    "Since that point, I have been more and more aggressive about trying to find new areas to explore - if just to keep myself interested and not waste the time I have available. There's so much left undiscovered."

    Todd Rundgren and the Metropole Orkest perform on stage at Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 11 November 2012.

    If you go

    Todd Rundgren: 9 p.m. Friday. $35. The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F. (800) 745-3000.www.thefillmore.com.

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