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Genre-jumping cult rock icon Todd Rundgren works his magic at SXSW

Eric Pulsifer

Though his résumé includes work with Hall and Oates, Trent Reznor, Meatloaf, Robyn, Patti Smith, and Pee Wee Herman, songwriter-producer and self-proclaimed wizard Todd Rundgren isn’t exactly a household name. But the cult prog-rock hero has a fervent following and drew a big, generation-spanning crowd to Elysium Thursday night for his one SXSW 2018 performance.

With his iconic Snape hair and black glasses, the theatrical frontman waved and stretched out his arms as he worked his way through a nearly hour-long set packed with the genre-jumping gymnastics to be expected from a creative chameleon who so firmly refuses to be boxed in.

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Several of Rundgren’s tunes were plucked from his star-studded 2017 album White Knight, but a light sampling of tunes across his career were also present. Highlights included the danceable, falsetto-spotted ’70s rock of “Secret Society,” the Talking Heads-light jam of “Buy My T,” and the crowd-moving cymbal-riding disco beat and rave keys of “Party Liquor.”

For an encore, Rundgren launched into The Cars’ “Good Times Roll” solo with his swimming-pool green electric guitar before being joined by the band. “Where the [expletive] are these guys?” Rundgren jokingly asked. “You’re all fired.”