Joe Jackson & Todd Rundgren featuring Ethel - State Theater New Jersey 2005

Here's a very cool live show from Jackson and Rundgren where string quartet (viola, two violins, cello) Ethel open the show. That might seem a bit odd, but it works nicely. Ethel violinist Todd Reynolds describes the band as "Classical musicians gone horribly wrong ... or right" and of course the latter is true. Given five songs here Ethel display their virtuosity and versatility with the frenetic "Nepomuk's Dances: Memory," the mournful "Alap" and "Pellimanni's Revenge," a cut that is darn close to a hoedown. The acoustic quartet sets the mood for the evening since most of the remainder of the show is also acoustic. Jackson takes the stage after Ethel and seated at a Steinway begins his set with the nostalgic "Hometown" before moving into longtime favorite "Steppin' Out" from his 1982 release Night and Day. Jackson's current studio album at the time of this concert was Volume 4 and two songs from that effort appear here, "Awkward Age" and "Take it Like a Man." Joe introduces "Obvious Song" as "Impossible to play alone" but the song comes out fabulously; also played are the ebullient "Citizen Sane," "Love at First Light" and a cover of the Beatles tune "Girl." There's an amusing moment on the set-closing "Is She Really Going Out with Him" when it comes to the lyric "Look over there," which normally would have Joe's band answering "Where?" But Jackson has no band here and is taken aback when the audience, right on cue, loudly shouts "Where?" Busting out laughing, Jackson momentarily fluffs his lyrics before quickly recovering, at least until the second time the lyric comes up and the whole thing happens again. Those moments are clearly indicative of how much fun the audience is having and Jackson is appreciative of that. Rundgren takes the stage alone and starts out playing acoustic guitar for the first four songs, "Love of the Common Man," "I Don't Want to Tie You Down," the rocking "Lysistrada" and the dreamy and complete with echoing effects "Tiny Demons." He switches to the Steinway for "Compassion" and the wild "Free, Male and 21." After the weirdness of "Free, Male and 21" Rundgren says, "Now that you've indulged me you deserve to be indulged" and rewards the crowd with a playing of his big hit "Hello, It's Me." Favorite "Bang the Drum All Day," without a backup band is not going to accommodate Rundgren banging on a drum as he normally would so he surprises by playing the song on ukulele. Also interesting is the fact that Todd incorporates brief lyrical snippets from Frankie Valli's "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Sherry Baby" into the song along with a nod to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)." After closing with "The Wheel," Rundgren cedes the stage back to Jackson who performs an encore of "The Other Me" backed by Ethel. Rundgren then gets his encore, standing at the microphone and singing "Pretending to Care" also backed by Ethel. Then the whole lot turn to the Beatles songbook and perform George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" featuring Rundgren playing electric guitar for the first time in the show. The unique concert closes out with everyone on stage again for Rundgren's "Black Maria." This DVD package also includes the show on two CDs.


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