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BMG Special Products presents
Utopia: Live At The Royal Oak (1981)

"Here is a song from our sordid and seedy past."
- Todd Rundgren

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 20, 2000

Stars: Todd Rundgren, Roger Powell, Kasim Sultan, Willie Wilcox
Director: Bob Lampel

Manufacturer: Sonopress
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:59m:49s
Release Date: October 24, 2000
UPC: 723338005492
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-A-B D-

DVD Review

Utopia was formed in 1974 by multi-instrumentalist Todd Rundgren as a side project to his solo career. After releasing Todd Rundgren's Utopia and Another Live with an expanded lineup, he turned the band into a four piece with the release of 1977's Ra, which was followed the same year by Oops! Wrong Planet and 1980's Adventures In Utopia. Staggered between these releases were more of Todd's solo projects, though Faithful and Back To The Bars featured most if not all of the Utopia lineup.

Utopia: Live At The Royal Oak was shot on video in Detroit, Michigan during the band's 1981 US tour. Donning battle fatigues (assumed as a statement about the Iran-Contra affair brewing at that time), after a brief intro segment of the band arriving at the show, they take the stage opening with One World (from their at that time unreleased Swing To The Right album). Sporting Eric Clapton's famous Cream era psychadelic Gibson SG for most of the show, Todd Rundgren (guitars, vocals) and bandmates Roger Powell (keyboards, vocals), Kasim Sultan (bass, vocals) and Willie Wilcox (drums, vocals) follow with their classic Road To Utopia (from Adventures In Utopia, 1980). Kasim takes over lead vocals for Back On The Street (Oops! Wrong Planet 1977), while Roger gets a turn at the mic on Caravan (Adventures in Utopia). The set continues with a track of Rundgren's 1981 solo effort Healing with Time Heals, which is followed by The Wheel from Utopia's Another Live album. Up next is Lysistrada, another debut from Swing To The Right. Couldn't I Just Tell You, pulled from Rundgren's landmark Something/Anything LP is bookended by offerings from 1977's Oops! Wrong Planet disc, Love In Action and Love Is The Answer, the final song in the set, where Todd takes time to shake hands with the audience. The encore digs back to another Rundgren solo album, A Wizard, A True Star for the closing Just One Victory.

Since this was shot in the early '80s, one aspect of this presentation I could do without is the infrequent use of video post effects that were present in much of the young "video era" releases, the still frames, capture overlays other effects innovative for their time certainly age an otherwise undated performance. Still, Rundgren fans should be happy with this document that captures the band in top form, and this is especially interesting as a companion piece to the Utopia: Redux '92 - Live In Japan show.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full frame picture has good color and black levels, though, since this was shot on video, there are occasional dropouts present. For a source of this age it has been preserved quite well, and certainly shouldn't disappoint those used to concert footage.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: While the audio is clear, the 5.1 track shows evidence of overcompression with pumping audible in places. It also has a fairly brittle high midrange throughout, with sibilants being too pronounced. While the instruments can be heard, they lack a great deal of definition. The stereo mix actually fairs a little better, though is not nearly as immersive as the surround track. For concert footage the audio is acceptable, especially given the age of the program, but don't expect a reference disc by any means.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The menus feature live action inserts with music from the show as a background, but if I have to talk about the menus, it is due to there being nothing else to talk about. There isn't so much as a tray card as an extra.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Another decent, if completely lacking in extras, video presentation of Utopia live in concert. Though the sound is not as pleasing as I would like, this still acts as a fine record of the band's early 1980s live performances. Utopia fans will dig it, but this would be a rental for the uninitiated.


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