THE MUSIC THAT TEACHES US TO LOVE AGAIN
7th October 2012
Paris, mon amour! We may or may not agree with the saying that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, but one thing is certain, every time Roger Hodgson and his fans are in this city at the same time magic happens: Paris becomes the city of respect, love, friendship, brotherhood, understanding, and much more. New friendships are born, new love stories blossom, old friends cannot wait to hug one another again.
In the early hours of the afternoon of Friday the 5th of October fans from all over the world started gathering outside the beautiful Olympia hall after months of exchanging comments, stories and feelings on Roger Hodgson's official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/rogerhodgsonofficial) and many were finally able to meet face to face for the first time. I travelled with a small group from the UK and USA and within minutes of our arrival the cameras became busy immortalising those precious first moments, and thanks to modern technology the first pictures started appearing on social networks, giving people who could not participate a feeling of being there and being an integral part of the big party! It was beautiful to see how people from all parts of France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, America and other countries had travelled so many miles for this occasion and how new friendships simply clicked into place, as if they had been existing for a long, long time.
At 7pm the theatre doors opened, allowing us to take our seats while more people gathered outside looking for a last minute ticket for the show, which had been sold out for many months!
At 8 o'clock Roger was proudly announced, and as he arrived on stage accompanied by Aaron MacDonald the applause was so loud I think we missed the first couple of notes of "Take the Long Way Home", which officially opened the show. I knew immediately I was in for a different night as people in the audience felt so at ease they started dancing and singing without any restraint!
Roger then picked up his guitar and, in a successful attempt at speaking French, told us he wanted us to put all of our problems behind for two hours and feel free to sing with him, dance, laugh, cry and even hug the person next to us if we wanted to. He then reminded us of the main reason why we are in this world and did so by warming up the audience a bit more with the famous and inspirational "Give a Little Bit".
"To me love is the most important thing in life" said Roger, before encouraging people to hold on to it, especially during these uncertain times. He then dedicated the beautiful ballad "Lovers in the wind" from his "In the eye of the storm" solo album to all lovers, and in particular to a couple sitting in the audience, which resulted in a generous applause.
He didn't even have to play the first note of "Easy Does It" that the audience, picking up the right key from his gentle plucking in preparation for the song, started whistling, literally anticipating the intentions of Roger, who then took on the role of a charming conductor! The whistle was so loud, clean, in time and tuned to perfection, I kept looking around me to see if there were anyone who wasn't participating! Every single person in the audience was taking part, and the clever game of lights helped the audience realise the importance of their role!
"Sister Moonshine" quickly followed and it was at this point that I could really appreciate in full the clever work of Howard Heckers, or "Mr GoodSound", as I affectionately call him. The sound was crisp but round, powerful but delicate at the same time. Roger's guitar sounded better than ever as he sailed through this classic Supertramp beauty.
We then got treated to "Rosie had Everything Planned", a song from Supertramp's 1971 album "Indelibly stamped" that certainly doesn't show its age. The artist with angel hair interpreted this favourite of mine with stunning delicacy and emotion, leaving me to wish once again I had been born a couple of decades earlier, just to be able to appreciate this song right from the moment it was released. This soon turned into a huge feeling of gratitude for Roger and for all of the lovely people who incessantly work with him who made it possible for us to enjoy his music live in 2012!
The rhythm of "Breakfast in America" quickly conquered us all again and had us singing and dancing within seconds, and little did I know that I was about to experience what was the most beautiful part of the concert for me: Roger sat at the keyboard and gifted his audience with the performance of "Teach Me to Love Again". I hope you'll forgive me for expressing my feelings without filters of any kinds at this point, but sitting in the audience while he performed this unreleased song was the most beautiful gift I think I had ever received in my life. I am unable to hide that I was totally taken away by the beauty of its simple and sweetest harmony and the depth of the meaning of this song, so much so I have been incessantly singing it inside me ever since! While he was performing this precious gem I impressed the melody and harmony in my heart and the first thing I did as I got home was to replicate it on my violin, in order to seal every single note inside me and never let them slip away. Like everybody else in the audience that night, I hope it will be recorded and released one day.
"C'est le Bon", another favourite of mine, caught me by surprise and, with the complicity of an astonishing sound quality, I suddenly found myself in a different dimension, isolated from the rest of the world as tears took over my weak attempts at avoiding them. So much so that at the end of the song a very embarrassed me was hugged by the guy sitting on my right who, in his best English, said to me: "You know that your tears were wetting all my trousers? That is so sweet!" That lovely gesture and those words brought me back to my "normal" self, ready to dance again and accompany Roger through his vocal vaultings during the ever-so-actual "Logical song" with all the voice that was in me.
A brief intermission followed, and before we knew it we were admiring a super Aaron MacDonald show us his talent on the grand piano with the fabulous solo of the profetic "Child of Vision". A touching rendition of "Lord, is it mine?", one of Roger's favourite songs, was then dedicated to someone very dear to me who had come all the way from Spain for this concert. This tuned my heart again in preparation of what must be my favourite song of all times: "Even in the Quietest Moments". Roger confessed that this song came flowing through him one night as he took a walk alone in the mountains and admired the starry sky. As his voice gently touched my hidden strings, one by one, I kept thinking of one of my friends, who was in the audience, who feels the same way as I do every time he hears this song. The lyrics went straight through me and all of a sudden the circle of life seemed to make perfect sense.
At this point Roger asked the audience to help him through the next few songs and we were all happy to oblige! "Don't Leave Me Now" was accompanied all the way by synchronised, energetic and dramatic clapping, right till the last beat. A true show where the people in the audience, together as one, became a very important instrument! People then got up and run as close as possible to the stage to dance a favourite of the French fans: "Dreamer"!
"Fool's Overture", the beautiful masterpiece that makes me feel British even if I am 100% Italian, officially closed the set-list. The pair left the stage only to come back a few moments later and be welcomed by flowers, a bottle of Champagne, various presents from the audience and a big banner that read "Love in Paris '12". The applause was deafening, and calmed down only when Roger announced that he was about to play "School". The clapping noise was soon enough replaced by the famous screams of the children, which were easily emulated by a now totally crazy audience!
"Let's do one more song and go home with a smile on our face" Roger exclaimed, as he anticipated "It's Raining Again". As per French tradition, numerous umbrellas suddenly opened and appeared amongst the audience and accompanied the song all the way through. The applause that followed was something that I cannot really describe with words, but you could hear, see and especially feel how much love and gratitude Roger's fans feels for their one and only Minstrel!
It has been a surreal experience. If I had to describe the Paris 2012 show in just a few words I would say it's been an adorable crazy party, where friendship and music have been the protagonists together with the most gifted and sensitive artist out there. Having seen Roger live a few times before I can honestly say I had never seen such enthusiasm and cooperation from the fans. Most of the people in the audience did not speak English very well and many have admitted they do not even understand the lyrics, yet the enthusiasm was second to none, and this just goes to prove that music is a true international language!
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Roger for putting into his songs all those feelings, questions and answers that have been an integral part of me too, since I was a very young child, and for shortening the distance between soul brothers around the world. The sensitivity and beauty of Roger's soul shines through every note, every smile, and there are quite a few people out there who feel very close to him for this exact reason. Roger's art is a precious gift to our ears, our souls and to the human kind.
I have had such a great time and I cannot wait to go to the next show, so much so I have already bought tickets for five shows for next year, and I cannot say it enough: if you have never seen him live please check his website for tour dates! Everyone should see a Roger Hodgson live show at least once in their life!
À très bientôt Paris, see you next May 18th for Roger's show with his band. You have been so kind to me despite my dreadful French and have proved to me that some things do happen for a reason: the music we are touched by, the people we meet, the things we see, do and say, the kisses we blow, the hugs we give and receive...they may seem like a coincidence at the time but I believe they are God's way - or Nature's, or whatever it is that keeps the world going - of reuniting us with our soul mates, and of teaching us to love again.