Rundgren weaves musical dreams

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD  -- Todd Rundgren performs on his 65th birthday on Saturday at Nottoway Plantation as part of a six-day celebration with his fans called Toddstock II v6.5.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Todd Rundgren performs on his 65th birthday on Saturday at Nottoway Plantation as part of a six-day celebration with his fans called Toddstock II v6.5.

Toddstock II v6.5, a six-day residency by singer, songwriter and sonic explorer Todd Rundgren at Nottoway Plantation & Resort, drew his fans from throughout the world to Louisiana’s sugarcane country.

Culminating Saturday, the singer’s 65th birthday, with a nighttime concert by Rundgren, Toddstock II provided his especially devoted followers with nearly a week of quality time in the presence of their idol.

About 160 attendees paid $799 for full access to Toddstock II activities. The event also sold out rooms in Nottoway’s antebellum mansion, carriage house and cottages and the nearby Best Western Plaquemine Inn. Other Toddstock II attendees occupied tents spread over the live oak-graced lawn at Nottoway’s big house.

Fans traveled to Toddstock II from the U.S., Canada, Scotland and Japan. Rundgren, after staging the first Toddstock in 2008 at his home in Hawaii, picked Nottoway for Toddstock II for it’s central U.S. location and because his latest tour began Sunday in New Orleans.

Nottoway built a low stage in its Randolph Ballroom so Rundgren and fans who’d brought their own musical instruments could jam with him and get some tips from the maestro.

Toddstock II field trips during the week included a bus to the French Quarter, paid for by the man of the week himself, and a swamp tour. The fans showed their affection Friday night by staging a fireworks display in Rundgren’s honor.

As Saturday’s pre-concert dinner in the Randolph Ballroom wound down, a group of Toddstockers at one table broke into a Woodstock-style percussion jam and chant. The jam grew louder and more elaborate before morphing into a few songs, including the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” Free’s “All Right Now” and, naturally Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day.”

Echoing the psychedelic ’60s, the era when Rundgren was a member of Philadelphia’s the Nazz, the scene in the tent where Rundgren performed included blurring glowstick necklaces and bracelets worn by his dancing fans.

Rundgren’s stardom didn’t come until he got his first hit in early 1971 with “We Gotta Get You a Woman.” While his 90-minute Nottoway show included his tuneful pop gems “Hello, It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light,” he concentrated on the dance-oriented music from his new album “State.”

Rundgren stepped on the stage wearing huge goggles and a print shirt with patterns that came alive amidst the show’s trippy lighting. He was as much performance artist as singer and only rarely picked up a guitar. Singing into a microphone suspended from overhead, he complemented his vocals with expansive, lyrical arm and hand motions.

Rundgren is a pioneer at performing alone with prerecorded tracks and no band, something today’s electronic dance music acts do ubiquitously. His Nottoway performance was, despite accompaniment by guitarist Jesse Gress and drummer Prairie Prince, a tracks-driven dance show.

For the hypnotic “Smoke,” a song from “State,” Rundgren led his grooving-like-it’s-1969 fans in communal dance. He wove more altered musical states with the dreamy, strobe-lit “Collide-A-Scope.”

Having performed transformed versions of “Hello, It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light” during his encore, Rundgren bid adieu with a hearty, “Thank you, Toddstock!” The Rundgren faithful, responded with a chant of “Thank you, Todd” and “Happy Birthday.”