Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Saturday, November 03, 2012

ETHEL and Todd Rundgren November 1, 2012

ETHEL and Todd Rundgren Turn 70’s to Today and Tomorrow

                       By Glen Creason

     It was hard to imagine how pop wunderkind Todd Rundgren would fit together with a string quartet at the Performing Arts Center. Then again, this is a venue that has seen strings and rock and everything in between. Still, even a quartet as contemporary as the classically trained but wildly innovative ETHEL might not meld with the man of many musical faces. However, this was to be a show that had strings and rock and pop and lots of things in between.  Rundgren is an artist equally famous for his unique slant on rock and roll and his talents in the studio making classic albums for himself and others. If anyone in pop music could incorporate the form that began in the Baroque period I guess it would be Rundgren.
     ETHEL played first and did not pull any punches, sounding distinctly classical and contemporary in choosing compositions from the 1970’s with Lou Harrison’s Baroque tinged 1st movement of his “String Quartet Set” and a juicy “Watermelon Man” by jazz great Herbie Hancock. ETHEL is Kip Jones and Tema Watstein on violin, Ralph Farris on viola and the charismatic Dorothy Lawson on rocking cello. Together they seem capable of expressing every sound in music, evidenced by the amazing juxtaposition of Arvo Paart’s stately “Spiegel Im Spiegal” followed by the rip-snorting “Octet 1979” by Judd Greenstein and the old Led Zeppelin chestnut “Kashmir” that had folks chair boogieing to a string quartet.
    Todd Rundgren took the stage after some re-arranging and showed that he has not lost a thing passing through four decades in popular music. His playing was crisp and his singing was strong while demonstrating some of the old wise-guy commentary in between really good old songs like “Lysistrata, “ “I Don’t Want to Tie You Down,” “La La Means I Love You,” “Bang the Drum All Day” and the anthem-like “One World” His amazing vocal on the Beatles “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” ranged from back of the auditorium crooning to a gruff blues shout. He jumped from strat to piano to uekelele while showing his instrumental powers without ever striking a false note. Even his strange coiffure seemed kind of cool in a Philip K. Dick novel sort of way.
     The second half added the two powers of Rundgren and ETHEL together making it a good concert squared. You really won’t experience many concerts where you will hear pop classics like “I Saw the Light,” Pretending to Care,” “Mercenary” and a rocked out “Soul Brother” along with Terry Riley’s “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector,” the Muppet song “Mahna Mahna” and the “Theme from the Game of Thrones.”  These are master musicians who moved from the long and thickly textured contemporary compositions into percolating R&B rumbles to the soaring heart-throbber “Pretending to Care” without a seam showing. Rundgren may be an iconoclast who did not sell-out despite his early pop stardom but he knows how to pace a concert and entertain a crowd, even one as open-minded as the rather musically literate and lucky one on hand at Cerritos on this night.


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