By Karl McLaughlin
Supertramp legend Roger Hodgson fulfilled, in his words, a lifetime ambition to travel down to Tenerife and he did not disappoint the 5000 fans who turned up to see him perform.
Despite the language barrier separating him from the vast majority (virtually all except for a small but noisy British contingent)Hodgson endeared himself to the audience -made up largely of people in their late-40s and 50s, although the occasional fresh-faced new recruit to his music was spotted - and gave the lie to the oft-repeated criticism that singers who still cling on to their past, particularly if from 30 years ago or more, are to be avoided like the plague.
Nobody would argue that the fans who packed the impressive indoor Santiago Martin stadium between Santa Cruz and La Laguna were delving into their memories for the night and were prepared to pay 30 euros for the privilege. But Hodgson demonstrated from the word go that he is not a man of the past in terms of voice or stage 'savoir faire'. The highest compliment he can be (and was) paid is that he probably sounds better live today than in the recordinq studio more than a generation ago. While others (Paul Young springs to mind) have lost a considerable chunk of their touch and voice range, the man behind the bulk of the lyrics of Supertramp and writer of his own solo albums in recent years has retained each and every note. He was even honest enough to confess to his apprehension about singing the title track to his Open the Door album due to the prolonged high notes, but he carried it off with style. The two hours plus of music, a carefully-orchestrated blend of racy Supertramp hits and slower (at times haunting) ballads, went down a treat with the audience, who became more involved as the night progressed, even though the lay-out of the hall (the 700 seats at floor level prevented dancing of any sort, while the tier configuration of the basketball stadium was somewhat distant) was not the most appropriate for letting one's hair down. The sober stage was adorned with four mini palm trees and three plush rugs, the only items apart from Hodgson's 12-string guitars, shiny black grand piano and keyboard. The lighting and sombre ambience were more in keeping with a relaxing couch in a psychiatrist's office, which was probably intentional given that most psychoanalysts try and put you at ease and take you back to your early days to explain your present self!
Hodgson adopted a similar approach: he talked gently to his 'patients' and added in the occasional witticism for good measure (as he played the opening chords of Take The Long Way Home, he quipped that he had certainly "taken the long way to Tenerife"). His clear and precise diction to ensure the local fans could understand his "conversation soon had the audience eating out of his hand, not least when he disclosed that his "one wish was to speak Spanish" to be able to communicate in a country he absolutely adores. He even joked with his own picture on the giant video screen behind him ("that's me by the way") and baited the photographers playfully: "these paparrazis have been hiding in my hotel room all day trying to get a good shot of me!".
Hodgson also took the trouble to explain how he signed up the other star of the night, versatile Canadian Aaron McDonald, who gave one of the most brilliant performances ever seen on stage here as he did his stuff on the saxophone, tin whistle, piano, keyboards and even as backing vocals for his boss. He was so astounded by McDonald's saxo contribution to a rendering of Logical Song during an orchestra-accompanied performance in Ontario that he offered him a Job and the two have been together ever since, sharing over 80 concerts, including the tribute to Princess Diana at Wembley in the summer. But the boss is still the boss and when the crowd went ecstatic at Aaron's opening words to them in reasonable Spanish, Hodgson jokingly called a halt to things and pleaded with them "not to encourage him".
The 57-year-old was jeered only once on the night, understandably so: after 10 songs and just as the audience '" had plunged head-first into the swing of things during the Logical Song (which was preceded by the revelation that it was Hodgson's time at an English boarding school - "do you have those things here in Spain? that prompted him to write the lyrics) he left the stage for 15 minutes for a break. But all wasforgiven when he resumed with a sequence that included Breakfast in America, during which he allowed the audience to do the singing in places ("you Spaniards are crazy but by God you can single"). Aaron McDonald took centre stage for a mind-boggling solo on Don't Leave Me Now before giving way to Hodgson for a marvellous rendering of dreamer which he dedicated "to all those dreamers out there" By now, 18 songs into the wonderful show, staged by LM Producciones, and sensing the end was nigh, the fans were not prepared to give up the last chance for a dreamy close-up of their hero and they broke with protocol to descend in droves from the highest tiers of the stadium to the floor-level area, where the dancing began in earnest. Hodgson responded in kind and gave his own Full Monty over the microphone, belting out the legendary Supertramp number as if it were his last ever performance. The prolonged standing ovation received included a typical Spanish OH-eh-oh.oh-eh football chant which echoed around the hall for ages, prompting Hodgson to mimic the 'words' and playfully consult McDonald on whether the song 'might just have some potential' for a future album. It was at this point that he confessed that "growing up, all my friends come to Tenerife on holiday but I never did... I am here now though".
The comment brought the house down and he capitalised on the adulation by moving swiftly into the highlight of the night, the racy it's Raining Again which was a credit to someone still oh his feet at half past midnight. It must have been the only concert ever seen in Tenerife where a surging crowd did not bother the security staff in the slightest. Come to think of it, were there any bouncers on hand? Hodgson (who obviously realised that the term 'speechless' may have been beyond the grasp of the non-Brits) announced sincerely that he was "without words", Together with his trusty sidekick McDonald, he touched hands with scores of adoring fans and left the stage momentarily, before returning for an encore in the form of School. If any criticism were to be made, it was the choice of this heavily-instrumental piece for an encore. Like a few of the other slower numbers played, it dampened the spirits of the hundreds of fans gathered within touching distance in front of the stage, who appeared at a loss as to what to do. But they needn't have worried: the Supertramp legend was only toying with them. Promising to "come back again soon", he launched once more into his signature tune, Give a Little Bit, the song charities worldwide ask for permission to use in their fundraising campaigns and which he had performed almost two hours earlier. Hodgson gave more than a little bit.
He gave it his all and the effort was much appreciated. Seasoned concert-goers, including the Cabildo's Karen Blanchard, who "had never seen a crowd here get into the swing of things like tonight", thought he was absolutely brilliant and some wished they could pop over to Las Palmas for the gig the following night also. It might be worth checking in less than a year's time whether all those romantic glints in the eyes of the departing couples actually come to anything. Or maybe they were following Roger's advice and just dreaming nostalgically.
For some critics, such as the man from the La Opinión daily, Hodgson demonstrated 'the dangers of being simple' and should have omitted the ballads and 'self-indulgent' stints on the keyboards. Did he even go to the concert?