October 8, 2012 by Jay Minkin
Enid, Oklahoma and Vermillion, South Dakota are places forever etched into our brains from Todd Rundgren’s stage banter that found its way onto the live double Lp Back To The Bars which features one entire disc devoted to the August 23, 1978 concert “An Evening of Intimacy with Todd Rundgren and Utopia”. Well, you can actually relive those thrilling days of yesteryear as film from that historic night will be shown as part of a FREE Utopia Fan Party presented by RundgrenRadio at The Agora ( 5000 Euclid Avenue) on Thursday, October 11th.
I was lucky to attend both of those Agora shows. Back then, many artists who were booked into a small venue would do two shows on the same night, so there was a 7:00PM and 11:00PM show. Bringing Todd to play the former 900 capacity Agora located on East 24th Street (it was destroyed by fire in 1984) was part of their 10th anniversary celebration. Getting tickets to the special event was another thing. As one of the pre-computer and pre-cell phone age ways of doing things, fans were required to send a check along with a self-addressed envelope. These would be put into a hopper and the ones pulled out would get tickets with the others having their check returned.
So my friend Edward Blau and I sent in four envelopes with different return addresses and scored one pair of tickets to the early show. We arrived early to get in line and ended up sitting on the floor pretty close to front left center. At this point of his career, Rundgren’s latest release was The Hermit of Mink Hollow that was receiving major airplay in the greater Cleveland radio market along with acclaim from many national print publications. Catching an artist while touring behind a great album always elevates the concert experience, so this show was all that and more. Songs which were included on the record release included “Real Man”, “Love of the Common Man”, “The Verb ‘To Love'” “Love in Action”, “A Dream Goes on Forever”, “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel”, “The Range War”, “Black and White”, “The Last Ride”, “Cliché”, and “Don’t You Ever Learn?”. I remember a ballerina coming on stage to dance through the interlude of “Can We Still Be Friends”. After the concert, we were so blown away (yeah I know its 1978), that we decided to try and get tickets for the late show. Somehow, we were able to get tickets and attend the second show the same evening. We stood in the rear, which wasn’t that far removed from the stage, and enjoyed the show from a different perspective.
Cleveland’s public television station WVIZ (Channel 25) taped the show and it was broadcasted later (edited down). Once again, this was 1978 and an era where video tape recorders (VCR) were not only very new, but manufacturers were fighting if either Betamax or VHS would be the consumer format of choice (VHS won out). A friend of mine, whose family owned a local movie theatre in Canton, taped the broadcast for me on Betamax. But since I had no way of playing it, I let him keep it. Unfortunately he played it to the point of no return and is one of those items you just wished you had hung onto from your childhood. I have been searching in vain ever since to find a copy of the Rundgren Agora show.
Eddie took some great photos on his SLR camera and I received a set of prints to cherish the memories. A few years back, I made some color copies of all the artifacts including the ticket stubs and the “sorry you didn’t get picked” note and gave them to the Agora’s owner Mr. Henry LoConti. RundgrenRadio also received a set to post on their Facebook page as co-host and arranger of the 34th anniversary celebration of the Todd Rundgren concert.
Thanks for taking this journey down memory lane and Cleveland rock history. I’m not sure who else went to the 1978 Agora shows that will be attending the party, but I would appreciate meeting you and swapping stories. For me, to go back in time and once again sit in the audience and relive that experience will truly be a dream that has lived on forever.