No longer able to turn a deaf ear to the unceasing requests from fans and the media alike, Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, Willie Wilcox are reuniting for their first North American tour since the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded. Presented by Sirius XM and produced by Live Nation, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia will be performing at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas May 26 (Pictured: Utopia trio – Photo credit: by Danny O’Connor).
In celebration of the upcoming reunion tour, Friday Music will be releasing a 7-disc box set, The Road To Utopia: The Complete Recordings (1974-82). This limited edition collection will bring each of their seven classic albums to life, now in first-time CD digipak gatefold covers featuring the original album artwork elements, rare inner sleeve art, newly written commentary from the band, and more. The box set has a scheduled street date of April 20. Fans can pre-order now at FridayMusic, Amazon and Record Store Day.
Todd Rundgren’s Utopia was formed in 1974 out of Todd’s desire to explore new musical territory. Starting as a prog-rock-progenitor septet the band’s music ranged from extended synth experiments to four-song albums, while their live shows were distinguished by their ahead-of-the-curve video backdrops and computer-generated music.
In 1976 the band evolved into “Utopia”, the shiny mainstream power-pop rock quartet, uniting Todd Rundgren on guitar, Willie Wilcox on drums, Roger Powell on keyboards, and Kasim Sulton on bass. Known for their hallmark lyrics, lush inventive background vocals and a voracious appetite for the highest level of musicianship. Utopia became known as the quintessential “musician’s band”. Every member took his turn singing lead on every album, and all songwriting was collaborative.
By 1980, Utopia had developed into a hit-making entity in its own right. Standout Utopia albums included Oops! Wrong Planet, Adventures in Utopia, and Oblivion, spawning hits including “Rock Love,” “Set Me Free,” “Mated,” and “Love Is The Answer”, which also became a global #1 for England Dan and John Ford Coley.
Utopia’s tours, among the first to aggressively incorporate then-state-of-the-art video technology, produced at Todd’s groundbreaking Utopia Video Studios, featured some of the most lavish and audacious stage productions in rock history. Their headline concerts frequently featured opening acts as future superstars Cheap Trick and The Cars, and the band performed at some of the 70’s most epic rock festivals, including Knebworth Castle in the UK — once with the Rolling Stones in 1976 and twice with Led Zeppelin in 1979, before a combined audience of over 1,200,000 (amongst them a Who’s Who of rock royalty, including Paul McCartney and David Gilmour) .
Always on the bleeding edge, Utopia chalked up a long history of groundbreaking media “firsts”, including:
- 1978: The first interactive television concert, broadcast live over Warner/QUBE, the experimental interactive cable system in Columbus, Ohio (the home television audience chose each song in real time during the concert by voting via QUBE’s 2-way operating system).
- 1978: The first live nationally broadcast stereo radio rock concert (via microwave), linking 40 cities around the country.
- 1982: The first live national cablecast of a rock concert (on the USA Network), simulcast in stereo to over 120 radio stations.
In 1986, after ten years of non-stop recording and arena touring cycles, the band declared they were “going on sabbatical”, and Todd, Willie, Roger and Kas each embarked on their own career paths.
What’s been happening with the Utopians during the world’s longest ever sabbatical?
- Todd Rundgren returned to his stellar solo recording and producing career. His myriad production projects ranged from Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, XTC, and Psychedelic Furs to Grand Funk Railroad, Hall & Oates, and Meat Loaf’s seminal Bat Out Of Hell, while his solo offerings catapulted Todd further into the superstar limelight with hits like “Can We Still be Friends”, and “Bang The Drum”; in addition to his own tours, Todd has been an erstwhile member of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band for the past 28 years.
- Kasim Sulton continued touring and recording with a long list of diverse artists including Joan Jett, Hall & Oates, Blue Oyster Cult, Patti Smith, Celine Dion, and Meat Loaf. In 1993 Kasim joined Meat Loaf’s live band after the release of Bat Out Of Hell II, touring extensively and becoming his Musical Director. In 1999 he produced Meat Loaf’s critically acclaimed VH1 Storytellers album. Releasing four solo albums of his own, Kasim has continued his long musical relationship with Todd as the bass player in his solo bands.
- Willie Wilcox continued to pursue his songwriting career. Having written songs for & performed with Luther Vandross, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Meat Loaf, Hall & Oates, and Kylie Minogue positioned Willie perfectly for his segue into television writing. He was the senior staff composer for NBC Universal in NY for 5 years and composed the current show theme for CNBC’s “Mad Money,” launched a major audio post production facility in Miami with clients MTV & VH1, penned famed boxer Manny Pacquiao’s ring walk music, and continues to maintain his position as senior audio director at Scientific Games, the number one gaming company in the world, where he recently completed the surround sound audio production on the blockbuster Michael Jackson game, “King Of Pop!”
As fate would have it, in early April Todd, Kas and Willie will find themselves back in Woodstock New York, 32 years later, right where it all started, rehearsing their newest stage spectacle.
Todd Rundgren’S Utopia North American reunion tour, featuring Todd, Kasim & Willie, begins on April 18 and ends on June 5 (tour dates below). Tickets and more information are available at Live Nation, Ticketmaster and all Ticketmaster outlets.