They’re getting the band back together! Todd Rundgren’s Utopia is returning for its first North American tour in 32 years and manager Eric Gardner talked to Pollstar about the circumstances that led to the reunion.
The lineup for Todd Rundgren’s Utopia will consist of Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, Willie Wilcox and Ralph Schuckett. Rundgren manager Eric Gardner of Panacea Entertainment told Pollstar the reunion represents the end of what might be the “longest sabbatical” ever.
Todd Rundgren’s Utopia began in 1974 and transformed into Utopia in 1976. The group went through two “phases” Gardner said, which could be referred to as “prog rock” and “power pop” separately, touring intensely for a decade and developing a reputation for a great live show with elaborate visuals.
By 1986 though, Rundgren had put his solo ambitions to the side for a decade while working with Utopia, and the band decided to go on hiatus while he focused on other projects, Gardner said. That dynamic simply continued for one, then two, then eventually 10, then 20, then 30 years, but from very early on people kept asking about Utopia.
“Beginning in 1987, literally, there were clamorings, both from fans and buyers, for getting Utopia back together,” Gardner said. “The clamoring never really ceased. My office and whichever agency Todd was with at the time would receive several serious inquiries every month. ‘Any chance? Any chance? Any chance?’”
When Gardner brought the idea up in October while Rundgren was in Las Vegas with Ringo Starr, he was expecting the same response, but instead found the artist receptive. After taking the temperature for demand and finding the “temperature was quite hot”, the challenge then became to get the rest of the band on board, as the other members had moved on.
Since his days with Utopia, Kasim Sulton has worked with Meat Loaf and Blue Oyster Cult, while remaining a fixture in Rundgren projects.
Rundgren told Pollstar in a previous interview: “Since Kasim was a member of, not the original Utopia and the not even the second variation of Utopia, at least the final incarnation of Utopia. I haven’t really worked with anyone else in the band since then except for rare occasions and special events. Kasim is, naturally, the player I’ve probably worked with the longest.”
Willie Wilcox moved on to work with Scientific Games, where he develops music for gaming machines, but the drummer is taking time from that position to return to the road.
Gardner said the team reached out to former Utopia keyboardist Roger Powell for the project, but the musician declined because he has since had substantial hearing loss. Fortunately Ralph Schuckett of the original Todd Rundgren’s Utopia was game, keeping the lineup very much still in the Utopia family.
To celebrate the reunion, a discography titled The Road To Utopia: The Complete Recordings (1974-82) is due out April 20. That project is available for pre-order now.
The tour dates start April 18 in Jim Thorpe, Pa., at Penn’s Peak. The run is mostly in theatres, including Tower Theater in Philadelphia; 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids, Mich.; The Wiltern in Los Angeles; and the run closes at Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, Calif., June 5.
Citi cardholders have access to a presale now and the general onsale opens Feb. 23.
There are no other dates booked at this time, Gardner said, as the band still needs time to rehearse and see how the members enjoy being on the road.
Todd Rundgren has been a steady force on the road for decades and that has continued in recent years. He toured with Yes and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy last year and Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band in 2016. As a soloist he has been a draw for theatres, pulling 1,014 to Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, N.J., on Dec. 1 for a reported gross of $42,203.
For all the latest on Todd Rundgren’s Utopia touring plans, check out the Pollstar artist page.