Back in 2005, Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson teamed up for a number of joint shows, each of which performed 11 song solo sets plus a duet encore. The New York string quartet Ethel opened and joined the men on some of their tunes. I happened to see one of these concerts and can confirm that it was a unique experience to present these two great talents in the way every fan would like to hear. The two CD and DVD New Jersey State Theater 2005 captures one of those unique shows.
Ethel, described as a “virtuoso alternative” string quartet, opens. They make it to some rich, kinetic sounding pieces of music. Jackson comes first after them and begins a terribly cute, jingling piano version of “Hometown”. Just hearing him sing to his sublime piano accompaniment is an instant reminder of how heartbreaking and honest this man’s songs can be.
Jackson also makes the crowd jump as he steps straight into his hit hit “Steppin ‘Out”. Then he has fun with “Is She Really Going Out With Him”. The crowd is awake at this point and Jackson is actually clapping and bursting with laughter as they shout “wo” right after he sings the “Look over there” in the verse. He even teases the crowd clapping by speeding up and slowing down his piano playing to purposely pass the time on them.
Todd Rundgren next. He starts on the acoustic guitar with “Love Of The Common Man”, “Lysistrata” and a resounding “Tiny Demons”. Then he switched to piano for “Compassion” and “Hello, It’s Me” before switching to electric guitar for “Black and White”.
Ethel supports Jackson on “Other Me” and Rundgren on “Pretending to Care”. Jackson, Rundgren and Ethel then trot a sensational cover of the Beatles cover “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Everyone stays on stage to end the concert with the rockiest tune of the evening, Rundgren’s “Black Maria”. Sometimes you watch a live performance and just know that you are seeing and hearing something really special. New Jersey State Theater 2005 is such a moment.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.