Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren at The Orpheum Omaha on August 14th, 2023
Daryl Hall is 76 years old. Todd Rundgren is 75. Their voices have aged and degraded. That is how life happens. I saw Tommy James six years ago when he was 70, and he sounded like a teenager, but that is a rarity. It’s not sad; it’s not a reason to hang up the jersey; it’s an opportunity for artists to do things differently at that age. Some do it well, and some do not. Both artists last night did it well, though one certainly stood out to me more than the other.
I will be honest; this show was my third choice of the night. The other two shows I had planned on going to were canceled. I like both artists, but I saw Hall & Oates 20 years ago and Rundgren twice. I wanted to see some music last night, so here we were. Rundgren came out wearing dad shoes, black pants, and a holographic shirt that looked like an 80s video game or wall art in a hair salon of the time. He had some Todd-Glasses on and streaked hair, and he was suitably Todd in appearance. The first time I saw Todd, I was working at the Music Box on Cass Street selling merch for Gary Jules (remember him?) and had no interest in seeing Todd Rundgren. His voice was roached that night, and yet I found his performance endearing. The second time was a cover set at the Waiting Room not all that long ago. That show was a riot, and again I found myself oddly endeared to the performance.
Last night I found myself wanting to dig into Rundgren’s catalog beyond the hits. Not that he did anything all that amazing or played dozens of deep cuts, but he is just so genuine with his music and…endearing. He started off the set bopping around with just a microphone dancing along the front of the stage, and it reminded me a lot of Ozzy Osbourne. I was so worried he was going to trip over a chord. He didn’t sound great, but he was selling it, making it work, and making us enjoy the songs. He would end up sounding better as the set went on. I guess I should point out here that Daryl’s House Band of amazing musicians was backing him up both musically and vocally, which greatly helped in making this delivery possible.
I was so happy when he picked up the guitar for a few reasons. It made him stationary, and I could stop worrying about him tripping. Holy hell, he is a great guitar player, and everything seemed to gel really well when he was playing with the band. He did the hits “Hello, It’s Me”, “I Saw The Light”, “We Gotta Get You A Woman”, and also some songs I didn’t know, such as “Black Maria” “Unloved Children” and “Want Of A Nail”. Those songs, I thought, were very interesting and made me want to dig into the catalog.
Now, I looked at the set list ahead of time, as I do, and saw that he was finishing out his set with a Curtis Mayfield song, a Smokey Robinson song, and a Marvin Gaye song. I was told this is not unusual, as he recorded all of those songs at one point in his career. I still feel like this is quite the choice, considering. I don’t know how, but he, with a lot of help from the band, performed absolutely inspired versions of those songs. No idea, but it happened.
I thoroughly enjoyed Rundgren’s set. I enjoyed Hall’s set also, but just not as much. Hall, again backed by the stellar band, started out hot with his solo song “Dreamtime”, but soon Hall was at the piano, where he would stay for much of the set. That is fine, but for much of the set he was making signs to someone offstage to get something right on his monitor, and that became very distracting. His vocals are not what they once were, of course, and he uses the band, the audience, and some hail marys to get through the songs. It’s really not bad; he still has a lot of soul and musicianship, and even sitting at a piano, he is a commanding showman.
The song selection was fine, with some Hall & Oates hits (“Out Of Touch”, “Sara Smile”, “I Can’t Go For That”), a Eurythmics cover (“Here Comes The Rain Again), and some deep cuts such as “Babs and Babs” that he talked about recording with Robert Fripp. There were some nice moments, but even for an eleven-song pre-encore set, it dragged along in places. His band, and especially guitarist Shane Theriot (who also plays with Hall & Oates), stole the show in a lot of those spaces. Hall also ranted a lot about the phrase “sorry for your inconvenience,” and I think he must’ve had a bad airport experience recently as it seemed to be on his mind.
Hall would bring back Rundgren in the spirit of Daryl’s House, and they did duets on Hall & Oates “Wait For Me” and Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends” (this got the crowd going) and a cover of The Delfonics “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind” with the band doing a lot of heavy lifting. Hall would leave the crowd happy and dancing with “You Make My Dreams” before making his exit. Overall, it was an enjoyable evening, and I am glad I went, but Rundgren was what really made the night.