19th July 2012
Lucca, ITALY. Imagine a very old town, made of stone buildings, surrounded by big walls, enriched by its historic art and coloured by flowery trees and balconies. Imagine blue skies, a very warm sun, the sweet smell of history blended with that of some of the tastiest foods you could ever try. Then imagine thousands of people coming from all over the country, and from abroad, to meet up in such an inspiring place, driven all the way from the same deep love for music but especially for their unconditional love for the composer and singer of some of the most beautiful songs of the last 40 years. Imagine all that and you may begin to get a good idea of what sort of air you could breathe in Piazza Napoleone last night.
People started arriving during the early hours of the very hot afternoon to have a stroll around the stage, eat ice-cream (or enjoy singing their favourite songs accompanied by a fan and his 12-string guitar!), to then get surprised by a little taste of what was to come as the band arrived to carry out their sound check. That was when all of a sudden it all felt real and the excitement really kicked in, which in turn brought strangers together, letting them begin to bond with one another, laying the foundations for friendships that will last for many years to come.
At 9:30pm on the dot Roger Hodgson, the legendary voice of Supertramp, one of the most successful bands of the 70's and 80's and composer of their most beautiful and most successful songs, arrived on stage, accompanied by his excellent band (Aaron MacDonald, Bryan Head, David J Carpenter, Kevin Adamson). The audience exploded in a welcoming applause which only the first bass note of "Take the long way home" was able to stop, leaving space to goosebumps and eyes wide open across the whole audience. The emotion was tangible and it increased as Roger played the first few notes of "School" which immediately brought many of the fans back in time to their youth and to their school years.
It was then the time for the impeccable "In Jeopardy", a gem that sounded powerful and absolutely beautiful and made even the most introverted people want to move and dance together as the band delighted us with an immaculate, energetic and exciting performance.
"Lovers in the wind" was anticipated by some beautiful words of wisdom from the Minstrel: no matter how crazy things become in life, as long as you have and feel love you can face anything. And love could really be seen and breathed in as people hugged one another and created chains with their hands to accompany him during the song.
The much loved "Hide in your shell" was very emotional and made many of us reach for their tissues. This is such a very personal song to so many people around the globe, it touches the deepest spots of our souls and is able to make so many people vibrate on the same frequencies like no other song. Last night the deep, maybe a little crazy, sensitivity of the Italian audience was rewarded with a powerful interpretation by Roger and his band.
"Do any of you know Crisis, what crisis?" was a rethorical question as the audience exploded in a chorus of "yeeeeeeeeeees!" and proceeded to accompany "Easy does it" with a beautiful, rhythmically perfect and in tune whistling.
The joyful "Sister moonshine" quickly followed and was over before we knew it, leaving Roger to introduce the next song with some humorous words: "had I been in Italy back then maybe this song would have been called Breakfast in Italy", which earned him some heartfelt laughter! The end of Breakfast in America resulted in a long standing ovation and energetic applause which had the potential to go on for much longer, but the happiness of hearing the beginning of a rare gem as "Lady" transformed the applause into rhythmic clapping all the way through the song.
A few notes of "The logical song" were all that was needed to reinforce the fact that, using the words of some people in the audience, "this is the real thing", "he is the business!", as even the most timid people left their inhibitions behind and simply melt into a spontaneous dance, taken by the catching tune and powerful rhythmical section of the song. Many seemed to be very appreciative of Bryan Head's clever use of his wood blocks!
Then the atmosphere changed: Roger introduced "death and a zoo" with a very difficult question: "If you were a captive animal in a zoo, would you prefer to live without your freedom or would you rather choose death?". The audience listened in religious silence to this very welcome surprise that made hearts race and tears flow and made us all wish and hope that all captive animals can be returned to freedom.
"Child of vision" was simply stunning: to quote the words of some people who were sitting behind me: "this is a childhood dream come true","this is more Supertramp than Supertramp!". Kevin Adamson's keyboard solo made a lot of jaws drop, and incited the audience to keep clapping their hands and reward the effort with yet another long standing ovation.
At this point Roger sat at the piano again and delighted the audience with what he considers his favourite song: "Lord, is it mine?". This is the second time I have had the pleasure to hear it live, and just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it did. Roger's warm voice is so full of love, passion and wisdom that "Lord, is it mine?" sounds completely different from the original version of 1979. It may be 33 years old but it feels actual and relevant to people now as it did back then, and his passionate interpretation really touched so many of us. As the song ended a banner which read "it IS yours" appeared in the audience, and I think many of us would agree with that statement!
"Don't leave me now" gave us some amazing solos from Aaron MacDonald and Bryan Head, and just before "Dreamer" started Roger invited a very polite and respectful audience to get closer: from then onwards we stood up and felt really close to him and to one another.
"Fool's overture" must have been a favourite of many. I turned around and saw many tears flowing! I thought I could manage my emotions this time, but when the whole audience joined in a perfect, aching choir of I KNOW's I ended up sporting the panda look again!
This was the last song of the concert, but Italians are a little stubborn and were determined not to give up their applause until Roger and his band came out again for an encore. Their wish was granted as the Minstrel and his band delighted us again with "Two of us", a favourite of all the romantic fans out there.
"Give a little bit" was the opportunity that the audience was waiting for to give a little bit back. Everybody: children, young adults, more mature and wiser boys and girls, joined in a joyful choir and accompanied their beloved Minstrel all the way through the song, note for note, word for word. All of a sudden the barrier of language was easily put down by the power of music and of the unconditional, but reciprocal, love for this amazing musician.
"It's raining again" closed the concert, leaving the audience in a fantastic mood as they waved goodbye to a radiant Roger and to his brilliant band. As the people slowly left the square many heartfelt comments could be heard, and new friendships became obvious: many fans continued the party by singing more and more until the warm sun made an appearance again.
Many people have asked me to describe the concert with one word, but it is objectively an impossible task. Roger Hodgson is such a selfless, giving artist, he has a charisma like no-one else, it is difficult not to love him. He gives so much while bringing out the best in people and really inspires them to better themselves. His songs are timeless and appeal to small children as well as to grown-ups, and his concerts are a concentrate injection of beautiful music, professionalism, love, friendship, brotherhood, energy, dreams, peace and hope. I wish everyone a chance to attend one of his shows: it is such a magical experience I am already looking forward to the next one...let the new countdown officially begin!