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Sunday, August 15, 2010


Buenos Aires, Argentina ~ May 11, 2010 ~ Walter Alarcon 


Review of the ROGER HODGSON show at the Gran Rex in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 11th 2010


English translation by HELENA CHAVARRIA  



Although it is rather late, I would like to share the review I wrote about the performance Roger Hodgson gave in Buenos Aires last May, with the forum.
I am sure that many of those who attended the concert in Madrid felt as moved as we felt in Buenos Aires. I published this text in my blog, a few weeks after the performance.

Fifteen months after his first presentation in Corrientes Street, Roger Hodgson returned to the Gran Rex and offered us what can undoubtedly be considered to be his best concert in Argentina.
Counting this one, this was Roger’s third visit to our country. Even today, we remember the five recitals he offered in 1998 in the Coliseo Theatre, and the wonderful concert that took place in February of last year, after a wait of nearly eleven years to see him fulfil his promise to return.  
The performances in the Coliseo have been branded on the collective memory of the local audience, due to the fact they were concerts of mutual discovery. Hodgson was returning to the stage after decades of absence and he was presenting "Rites of Passage”, the album that gave him back his tours and which enabled him to debut in our country. For the first time, the Argentinean audience was going to be able to watch an artiste for whom they had been waiting for over twenty years.
The sensations of that period, a surprise for Hodgson who had been greeted by an audience which he had possibly not expected, and which had displayed emotion, fervour, and tears that were captured by "Puerta V”, the television programme that circulates amongst our fans like a document of cult.  
For all these reasons, it would not be an easy task to reach the summit of musical intensity and perfection of these two visits. Needless to say, the concert that took place in the Gran Rex on 11 May surpassed our expectations.
This time, with respect to last year, the local producer improved their bet. There was graphic advertising on the streets, advertisements on television and several radio interviews (some of which can be listened to here) that ensured greater publicity. Many of the people who came to the Gran Rex had made the journey from bounder countries (Chile, Uruguay) or from provinces as far away as Catamarca, Río Negro or Misiones, among others.
Thanks to the internet, great expectations had been generated. Social networks, blogs, mail threads and websites from very many countries were following this performance with special interest and were providing updated information by the minute. 
In the early afternoon of Tuesday 11, a crowd of fans was waiting outside the doors of the theatre. 
Among them, there were not only Hodgson fans, but also fans of Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd, who were keen on seeing the author of key pieces of symphonic rock.
The nervousness could be felt everywhere. The doors of the Gran Rex, which is one of the most important theatres in Buenos Aires, opened two hours before the performance. The auditorium filled in just over an hour and after listening to the support band (about which, I am very sorry to say, I have no information) the level of expectation and nervousness increased. Hands began to clap and Roger’s name began to be chanted by an impatient audience. 
A new band had been specially created for the South American concerts. For those who did not realise it, it is necessary to mention that the musicians who appeared in the programme were not the same people who were on the stage. With regards to last year’s formation, only the multi-musician who accompanies Roger on his acoustic tours, Aaron McDonald, was present.
At exactly 9.30 p.m., the first notes of "Take the Long Way Home” opened the concert and Aaron McDonald’s harmonica gave way to Hodgson’s wonderful voice. The singer sung the first verses and from this moment onwards the audience roared. Three thousand people rose to their feet to applaud his return. The interpretation was intense and magnificent and culminated in a standing ovation. The stage lights lit up with a white light, they rotated from the stage towards the balconies and stalls and they threw light onto a fervent multitude.
This time, a deafening song burst from the theatre seats towards the stage. "Oh-ohoh-oh-oh, Oh-ohoh-oh-oh” was the clamour from the multitude. For the benefit of those people who do not know the melody (or for those who are too young to know it) it originates from "Rain Dance”, the song that is sung at the Woodstock festival, an emblem of the hippy movement of the 60s and the highest level of excellence acknowledged by the local public. Roger stood up, he took hold of his acoustic guitar and he went towards the centre of the stage to present himself to the audience. 
"Ole, Ole, Ole Roger… Roger, Roger…” was the deafening chorus that thundered around the theatre and which stopped him from talking.
"Good evening. How are you?” he finally managed to say in perfect Spanish, before continuing in English, "It is so nice to be back in Argentina. How are you my friends? I’m very happy to be here tonight”.
It was obvious to see that he was feeling as emotional as us. He shivered, his shoulders shuddering, as though he was suddenly feeling cold, before exclaiming,
"It´s so good to see you, I love Argentina”  just before he presented a classic of classics.
He strummed the first chords on his guitar to introduce "School”.
The new rhythmical base, Bryan Head on the drums and Ian Stewart on the bass guitar, provided a compact sound. Both musicians added a vital beat to the songs, resulting in a strong and enveloping sound. Throughout the quiet passages, they provided all the details and subtleties of the original recordings.
The new arrival on the keyboards, Kevin Adamson, who was placed on the left of the stage, behind Hodgson, performed the "School” solo impeccably. It could be said that maybe there was a lack of volume, or that was the impression that was received from the centre of the stalls.
"I know this song has helped many people in difficult moments” mentioned Hodgson before presenting one of my most favourite songs, "Hide in your Shell”, a gem of symphonic rock.
When I observed the audience around me, I was met by a touching scene. Everyone seemed immersed within a whirlwind of emotions. Silence and beauty throughout the performance, applause after the final verse, until the palms of our hands were worn out. At one moment, I turned my head and I saw the balconies above and it seemed as though the whole theatre was going to collapse. Cries, happiness and emotion were flowing out from several generations of listeners. Parents and their children, even whole families, were listening to the music that had accompanied them throughout their lives, live on stage.
A few moments later, Hodgson seated himself in front of the grand piano, he asked for everyone to be quiet and before performing the next song, he said, "The most important thing in life is love”. Then "Lovers in the Wind”, the touching ballad from "In the Eye of the Storm”, his first album as a soloist, emerged from the loud speakers. His voice, despite the exhausting tours around the world, remains intact as one of the most memorable voices of the great rock bands.
One of the songs I prefer to hear live, rather than the recorded studio version, is "Soapbox Opera” and that was what came next. A chorus of angels preceded the soft notes that come from the piano, which cause one to tremble when they are heard. The version sounded very similar to that included in "Paris” and this can only prove the merit of a newly-formed band. The group was perfect and we should take into account that for this band, which had been formed especially for Argentina, it was the first time they were playing with Hodgson in front of a huge audience.  
The initial whistling of the warm "Easy Does It” led us to the most intimate moment of communion of the performance. All of us tried our best not to whistle out of tune, and the whistling from the whole audience created the same magic that this song produces in the rest of the world.
The next songs were "Sister Moonshine” and "Breakfast in America”, the latter with an additional coda, which caused enormous enthusiasm amongst the audience. So much so, that before presenting the next song, "Along Came Mary”, Hodgson, who was visibly moved, said,
"I think I’m going to take you all with me on tour”... which caused great emotion among the audience.
It can possibly be said that from amongst all his compositions, the greatest conjunction between lyrics and music is "The Logical Song”. Before performing it, he explained something about its history,
"When I was at school, they told me that there I would be able to learn everything; but when I finished, I realised that I still didn’t know who I was... ”
His hands struck the keyboard and the band sounded out at full force in a performance charged with energy. Aaron Mc Donald was marvellous. His sax solo ended with roaring applause which spontaneously interrupted the song before it ended. Each and every one of McDonald’s performances, whether they had been offered on saxes, clarinets, keyboards, flute or the rest of the instruments he played, were charged with energy, feelings and precision.
The grand piano was the protagonist of the most personal track from the album "Breakfast in America”; "Lord is it Mine” was presented by Hodgson as his favourite song. The performance, as lately seems to be the case, sounded slightly faster than the original version. 
There was something in Hodgson, maybe a spiritual connection that had been established with the audience, which provided a unique sensation of peace and comfort. It was an experience that was outside sensorial limits, which inundated the mind and the soul like a balsam.
Next followed a song that would test the set up and the dynamics of the band, "Child of Vision”. The well-known keyboard introduction fully anticipated the rhythmical base. The drummer went to town on the drums and cymbals, in perfect synchronisation with the bass guitar and together they established the space for the dialogue that took place between the keyboards. The voices perfectly complemented the verses which make up the vocal duel, to end with the stupendous piano solo played by Kevin Adamson. It was undoubtedly a brilliant interpretation.
The material from the soloist albums was scarce. Only the two that have already been mentioned: "Lovers in the wind” from "In the Eye of the Storm” and "Along Came Mary” from "Open the Door”. It was a shame not to be able to listen to "Puppet Dance”, which was a radio hit here, or "In Jeopardy”, which the audience asked for over and over again.
Nonetheless, in what was going to be the first time for us in this country was the opportunity to listen to "The Awakening”. Roger presented the song and he explained that it spoke of the forgiveness of others and, possibly the most difficult thing of all, the forgiveness of ourselves. The lights blacked out, the halo produced by a spotlight descended down towards him, and the full and crystalline sound of the 12-string acoustic guitar filled the theatre. These are the lyrics of the song:

By the time you wake
And forgive yourself your mistakes
It’s the time it takes
To rewrite your story

By the light of truth
And the passion you felt in your youth
As your heart breaks free
You rewrite your story

So let go
Spirit flow
You are awakening
Yes, you are awakening

As the dawning breaks
And you feel your spirit awake
As the walls come down
You rewrite your story

It's a brand new day
And the grace is flowing your way
As your heart comes free
You rewrite your story

All you know
Must let go
For you are awakening
Yes, you are awakening

So let go
Spirit flow
You are awakening
Yes, you are awakening

By the time you wake
And discover all your mistakes
It’s the time it takes
To rewrite your story

By the light of truth
And the joy you felt in your youth
As your heart breaks free
You rewrite your story

So let go
Spirit flow
You are awakening
Yes, you are awakening

Of course, this finished with another ovation.
The surprise, or at least for me, was the presentation of "If Everyone Was Listening”. The atmosphere from the album "Crime of the Century” sailed over the auditorium in a beautiful interpretation, one that was much warmer and closer than the version performed by Ken Scott in 1974.
Aaron McDonald and his sax would begin the third last song of the night. The farewell song from "Famous Last Words”; one which would announce the end of Supertramp, "Don’t Leave me Now”. A calm piano and a soft incorporation of the sax, which would steadily grow stronger, anticipated the powerful entrance of the drums. The whole band joined in the performance with all the details, except one. In the original recording, Hodgson includes a magnificent solo played on an electric guitar; an instrument that the Argentinean audience has never heard him playing live. The sound of the
Fender "Stratocaster” was an integral part of Supertramp and it is something that is missed.  The sounds, fluid and full of feeling, without an excess of virtuosity (to be more precise, such as can be heard before the end in "Don´t Leave me Now”) or full of enormous enthusiasm and energy (as "In Jeopardy”) fitted into their compositions in such a unique way that, in my case at least, I would love to be able to hear it performed live.  When he plays the electric guitar, he evokes passages of sound that complete the "framework” of the song. The last time he appeared in public playing the instrument was on the tour of the "The All Star Band”. It would be lovely to have the chance to listen to it here one day.
After nearly one and a half hours, we were going to have the opportunity to listen to the first song he composed on the electric piano, way before he answered the advertisement which appeared in Melody Maker, "Dreamer”.
The audience clapped to the music, transforming the hit from "Crime of the Century” into a collective hymn.
After several minutes of applause, which seemed would never end, Hodgson moved away from the keyboard and went towards the grand piano, he sat on the stool, he leaned towards the microphone and said,
"I would like to finish with a song that…” he paused for a moment before continuing, as though he was looking for the exact words he needed, "Do you know? For many years I had three parts of a song and, suddenly, one magical day, they became one, which is… "Fool’s Overture”.
With the first notes, the pictures and sounds of Big Ben, the pealing of bells, the atomic bomb and the voice of Sir Winston Churchill entered my mind, as though I was witnessing the legendary concerts of Munich or Toronto, watching the huge video screen. The climax and the depth of the interpretation created some of the best highlights of the concert. A wonderful finale for an unforgettable evening.
The concert was drawing to an end. The lights came on, completely illuminating a theatre that was overflowing with emotion. The members of the band left their instruments; they stood in the centre of the stage and waved to the audience with their arms held high. Hodgson turned his head towards the musicians, pointing to the auditorium as if he was saying, "Can you believe it?” The show that was coming from the theatre seats was amazing. "Oh-ohoh-oh-oh, Oh-ohoh-oh-oh”, bellowed the audience again and again, not allowing anybody to leave the stage.
It was time to present the performers, one by one, but for some reason Hodgson decided to omit this part. He only said, "This is my new band, a very good band” and then he drank some water before continuing,
"You know... I love coming to Argentina, so maybe this means we will have to return next year”.
The audience burst with happiness and stood up to applaud, whilst the musicians returned to their dressing rooms. 
But the curtain calls were still missing. When Hodgson came back onto the stage, he announced a song which he said had never been sung here, "Lady”. His memory failed him; "Lady” was performed in each one of the concerts that took place in 1998, although in a different format. It was amazing to be able to listen to it again with all the studio arrangements. It was at that moment I realised that several "effects” in the song are actually produced by the mouth.
The audience accompanied the performance with a mass snapping of fingers.
As a farewell, "It´s Raining Again” unleashed a party. The audience stood up from their seats and many people moved into the aisles to dance and jump around in a collective celebration. Some of the members of the staff who work with Hodgson moved around the theatre with camcorders, recording all that was taking place in the stalls. Does this mean there will be a new DVD?... Who knows? At least the audio of this concert was recorded on a console and it is probable that the recordings are included in a CD recorded live.
Not one person in the theatre wanted to leave. Everyone, standing up and waving their arms, was asking for one more song. The strumming of a guitar was instantly acknowledged and "Give a Little Bit” was the present that had been chosen to end the evening. Hodgson’s voice, his presence and energy still remain as intact as they were during his earlier years and he gave the best of himself in a superb performance, which was transformed at the peak of the show.
This was how Roger Hodgson ended his best ever performance in Argentina, in a show that will be impossible to surpass in terms of emotion and intensity, dramatic quality and happiness.
From now on, we will have to wait what happens in his role as a composer. He has written more than fifty compositions ("Hum Hum”, "Low Dance” or "Sad Boy”, to name only a few) which are waiting to see the light of day. It is worth asking ourselves what would happen if a first class producer (as in the case of Nigel Godrich with Paul McCartney, or Brian Eno with Coldplay) provided him with the motivation to extend his limits. Of course I am not talking about the search for commercial success, but the opportunity to record his new compositions with the best artistic means possible. Many of these songs, which are still hidden away, are waiting to be transformed into new classics.
Meanwhile, the audience in our country is desperately hoping he remembers what he announced: that he would return next year.

The Set List was the following:

Take the Long Way Home
Hide in your Shell
Lovers in the wind
Soapbox Opera
Easy Does It
Sister Moonshine
Breakfast in America
Along Came Mary
The Logical Song
Lord is it Mine
Child of Vision
The Awakening
If Everyone was Listening
Don't Leave Me Now
Fool’s Overture
It's Raining Again
Give a Little Bit



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