This was my first, and hopefully not last, Roger Hodgson concert. Due to circumstances beyond my control I had to miss Roger the last few times he was in my area, so I was determined not to miss him again if he ever came back. What a dream-come-true surprise it was to find out he would be here on March 27, 2010! I was most definitely there that night!
Roger and Aaron’s first concert of 2010 was at the Pechanga Resort/Casino, an Indian (Native American) Casino in Southern California. It was a nice enough place except that, even though California is a no public smoking state, smoking is allowed in casinos. I inadvertently ended up parking on the wrong side of the building and had to walk through the smoke. That was not a good way to start the night. But the casino staff was very friendly and the Showroom itself was quite nice—small enough to keep me happy but large enough to keep Roger happy!
I met a few fans before the concert who were kind enough to let me join them for dinner and some pre-concert Roger talk. I don’t often get to talk about him since I live in a very unenlightened area (no Roger fans) so it was nice to be among fans for a change. They were just as excited as I was about Roger being back in town and some of them even made plans to take off to Arizona right after the show to catch Roger there the next night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them but I was there with them in spirit!
I was on the phone the second the tickets went on sale for the concert. As far as I’m concerned, I got the best seat in the house! I got in and walked all the way up to the front to find my seat. My jaw dropped when I realized just how close I was to the stage. There was about three feet (one meter) from my seat to a fence that divided us from another three foot area to the stage on the other side for the video screen camera. I got there first so I had the pleasure of watching the dropping jaws and looks of happy shock from the rest of the lucky fans in my row.
Ah, but only I got the speaker in front of me. Not usually a good thing, but it gave me a chance to listen to the entire concert at the volume level that I am accustomed to listening to Roger at. (I have ruined more than one set of stereo speakers that way… ) Yes, I did have my earplugs in. Sort of.
As soon as I got settled in my seat, I checked out the stage. Everything was up there just as I saw it in all the videos. Roger’s keyboard was on my left, then the grand piano, then Aaron’s keyboard and assorted instruments on the right. (Boy, can he play a lot of instruments!) There were large video screens on each side of the stage but the only thing on the stage besides the instruments was a semi-circle of seven small potted trees, very budget mystic. However, it didn’t take long for me to see that was exactly what was needed to ground the stage to the earth and balance out everything. No more, no less. Impressive. During the concert, the lights shone on them in beautiful jewel tones making me feel like a little girl in an enchanted forest.
Roger and Aaron came out on stage, full of smiles, looking all fresh and rested from their break. Roger looked particularly handsome in a white shirt, black vest, black pants, and fresh haircut. They were both in great spirits and Roger started the show with a joke about guessing how many mistakes would be made during the night since this was the first concert of the year. (Not too many actually, but it didn’t matter either way since even the mistakes sounded good!) Then Roger got settled in on the keyboard and played those familiar opening chords of "Take the Long Way Home”.
I was very pleased with the set list for that night:
Take the Long Way Home
Give a Little Bit
Lovers in the Wind
A Soapbox Opera
Easy Does It
Breakfast in America
Along Came Mary
Lord is it Mine
Child of Vision
If Everyone Was Listening
Don’t Leave Me Now
(Happy Birthday to Roger)
It's Raining Again
Roger told stories for each song and he and Aaron transitioned easily and seamlessly from instrument to instrument all through the night. It went so smoothly that it felt like one long song running through us with nothing to break the spell of the night.
During our whistling on "Easy Does It”, Roger came to the edge of the stage and sent his very contagious smile out into the audience. At one point he looked right at me and I felt the power of that smile all the way to my toes. Wow. That is definitely a moment I will never forget!
Aaron was pretending to be John Helliwell all night, especially on the replies in "Breakfast in America”, which he did quite well. But I enjoyed him being silly all on his own, like during "Dreamer” when decided that one "Woo!” wasn’t enough so he added a few more. Actually, Aaron is great no matter who he is trying to be. Roger is very smart to bring him along for the ride!
A personal moment for me was when Roger sang his new song, "The Awakening.” Once again, Roger has written a part of my life into a song. It meant a lot to me to be able to hear him sing it in person that night.
Too soon, the moment was over and Roger put down his guitar and sat back down at the keyboard. He was about to play something when he looked over at Aaron, then started laughing. Roger laughed so hard he hit his head on the microphone. At this point, Aaron is laughing as well and admits that he missed a cue. We never noticed the difference, but it was a special treat for me to see them laughing like that. They never show that on any of the video clips.
Eventually, they composed themselves and started in on "Child of Vision”, which is the one song I have always wanted to see and hear Roger play in concert. It came through that speaker in front of me just as clearly as on the album. I was a very happy fan at that point! Aaron tore up the piano on that song. After he finished, Roger took his place at the piano and exclaimed that the keys were still too hot to touch!
For those who are wondering if Roger’s voice is still as strong as always, rest assured that he more than proved to us that it is. I overheard him after the concert saying that he was basically playing it a bit safe on vocals, being that it was the first concert of the year, but on "Fool’s Overture” when he hit that high note on "sky”, that powerful voice that we know and love went straight through that speaker and came out as a wave of wonderfulness that hit every nerve of my body. I spent the rest of the song slouched down in my seat in blissful delirium. That moment alone was worth the price of the ticket!
Forgive the cliché but it really did feel like the night would never end. When it did, it was kind of shock to the system. They played about 90 minutes non-stop but at that moment it felt like only a heartbeat. I could have stayed there forever. I wasn’t alone, as the thundering applause and chants refused to end until Roger and Aaron came back on stage to play "School”. When they were done, a Happy Birthday sign was passed up to him and we all sang for him. Roger seemed a bit embarrassed but happy.
They ended the night with a sentimental favorite of mine, "It’s Raining Again”. After all of these years, I finally got to sing with Roger. It was the perfect way to end the night. Thank you Roger! ;)