Todd Rundgren’s Utopia | Benefit For Moogy Klingman – Box Set Review

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Since their first album in 1974, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia has released a handful of studio recordings through several incarnations. Though their activity is pretty much at the whim of Rundgren, Utopia has maintained an intensely devout cult fanbase over the years. Reunions bring out the best, and one that occurred in 2011 was set up as a benefit to offset the medical bills for Rundgren’s longtime friend, songwriting partner and founding member of the original Utopia, Moogy “Mark” Klingman. Former Utopia members, including Klingman, stepped on various stages to deliver their fans some incredible shows during a short run. Benefit For Moogy Klingman collects both the audio and video of a January 2011 performance, along with a second show in November that same year, just a few days after Klingman’s death.

The first two discs cover the January 29, 2011 show at the Highline Ballroom in New York, NY. The first few songs are piano-based — “Moogy’s Boogie,” “Never Never Land,” and a very early Klingman/Rundgren number called “Crying In The Sunshine.” The influence of Rundgren’s birthplace, Philadelphia, and its “white soul sound” is evident here. Then we get into the prog vibe with the instrumental “Utopia Theme,” a true staccato anthem, followed by the multiple changes of the Zappa-like work-out on “Freak Parade.” Other highlights include the guitar-heavy “Heavy Metal Kids,” “Set Me Free,” a nasty read of ELO’s “Do Ya,” (which shows a little wear and tear on Rundgren’s voice) and the animated “(You Got To Have) Friends.”

The November 18, 2011 show at the Peekskill Performing Arts Center in Peekskill, NY fills the third and fourth disc, with a similar set. On the heels of a blistering “Utopia Theme” things do change up slightly with a floaty “Something’s Coming.” One of the best songs across the whole set is “The Seven Rays.” The synth-dirven boppy “Freedom Fighters” from the band’s debut shakes things up toward the end. Throw in DVDs of the show, plus a gorgeous booklet with extensive liner notes and photos, and For the Benefit For Moogy Klingman should take up most of the weekend. When it comes to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, it’s worth the investment.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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