Hodgson surpasses expectations
By Lynn Saxberg, The Ottawa Citizen - May 2, 2009
Photograph by: John Major, The Ottawa Citizen
Roger Hodgson, whose clear, soaring voice was one of the defining features of Supertramp, finally returned to Ottawa Friday night, delighting a sold-out theatre audience at Scotiabank Place with his timeless songs and gracious demeanour.
"I know I took the long way back to Ottawa," he remarked, making mention of the band's monumental concerts at Lansdowne Park a quarter-century ago. Many of those in the audience of 3,800 were old enough to remember Supertramp as a chart-topping stadium band, but that's not why they were there.
No, my guess is they were there to hear songs like Take The Long Way Home, Give a Little Bit and The Logical Song, soulful numbers written by Hodgson that made an indelible impression on a lot of people, especially in Canada, back in the late 1970s and early '80s. It's estimated that one in 15 Canadians owned copies of the albums Breakfast in America and Crime of the Century.
It was this long-standing connection that brought them out last night, and Hodgson, more of a prim British gentleman than a rock star, surpassed all expectations. Dressed in a white shirt and vest, his long hair streaked with grey, his sterling voice was in peak form, effortlessly hitting the high notes and carrying the melodies with a fluid nonchalance. How cool to hear the nuances and inflections of the original songs in exactly the right places, just like they were in the grooves of the old vinyl LPs.
Hodgson performed with a multi-talented Canadian musician from London, Ont., named Aaron Macdonald, who did a terrific job filling in the harmonica, saxophone and other miscellaneous wind instruments, along with extra keyboards and background vocals. In their four years performing together as a duo, Hodgson and Macdonald have perfected the rich, full sound of a pop orchestra.
On a stage bedecked with potted plants, a fog machine spewed its atmospheric brew, while the tasteful stage lighting added elegance, transforming the lonely hockey arena into a theatre almost as intimate as the National Art Centre. Black curtains obscured the upper levels, further disguising the cavernous space. The sound, by the way, was magnificent: pristine, well-balanced and not too loud.
Hodgson performed two sets, kicking off the first with Take the Long Way Home and launching the second with Breakfast in America. Standing ovations were fully expected for those songs, but the surprising part of the night was how generous the audience was with its ovations, bestowing them for nearly every song, except the most obscure solo numbers.
In addition to the emotional impact of his hit songs, what made it extra special was hearing the songwriter's perspective on how they were written. Logical Song, for example, came out of the questions Hodgson had about life when he was a child, while Hide In Your Shell captured the tumultuous transition from teen years to adulthood, and Breakfast in America expressed his dream of visiting America.
"This feels like a real special evening," Hodgson said at one point, summing up last night's exchange between performer and audience with perfect accuracy. He also promised not to make everyone wait another 25 years until his next visit.