It had been almost two years to the day since Roger Hodgson last played the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool.
His previous visit happened to fall on a Sunday night, the day before a public bank holiday at the end of May 2011 and the crowd that night were certainly "up for itĒ.
Possibly bolstered with thoughts of a day off work the following day, the bar at the historic Philharmonic pub over the road from the concert venue was packed to the rafters and the sun was out. People were enjoying themselves and that atmosphere carried itself over to the show.
On that occasion Roger received a rapturous reception and various standing ovations during a wondrous evening of nostalgia and emotions which left a crowd stunned and overcome by what they had just witnessed.
After such a long time away from performing in Liverpool, (It had been over 30 years since a Supertramp line up including Hodgson last played this famous musical city at The Empire Theatre in November 1977), Roger wasnít to leave his loyal fans waiting this time around though and arrived last night to much anticipation and excitement.
From the opening bars of Take The Long Way Home to the closing notes of Itís Raining Again we were taken on another magical journey of musical memories some of which have stretched back over 40 years.
40 Years might seem a long time for a musical back catalogue to still impress a live audience but 1971ís Rosie Had Everything Planned has become a regular set list addition since Rogerís renaissance in 2004. Songs such as "RosieĒ and Hide In Your Shell have the ability to transcend musical generations, still sounding contemporary and sitting neatly alongside such popular classics such as Breakfast In America, Dreamer and The Logical Song.
Itís hard to say what a typical Roger Hodgson fan looks like these days as his fans consist of young and old alike with parents gratefully passing down the baton of the musical genius to their welcoming children, ultimately ensuring that Rogerís music will never die. What is apparent also is that Hodgson has a loyal base of fans that travel globally to as many shows as they can get tickets for and have formed their own community of support and love for this highly spiritual musician. These fans meet up and travel together across countries and share experiences which only the music of Roger Hodgson can bring them.
Unlike most musicians of a certain age Hodgson still has the voice and musical ability to make his live show sound even better than the studio recording and the reluctance to play much bigger arenas affords the audience the luxury of really connecting with him as he opens his heart for almost every song introduction, allowing us to understand what emotional journeys he has taken during his career.
Backed up by his fantastic band and production team the two hours spent in his company allow the spectator to daydream and as Roger would have it "To leave all your worries behindĒ.
Fans of Supertramp who have pined for a reunion of the Hodgson/Davies partnership could sometimes be forgiven for their hopes, but if the truth be known there really isnít any need to go back to stadiums and superdomes when you have a group of such talented musicians backing up Hodgson and helping to make his sound so modern, yet timeless as well. These live show use all the original instruments that made the Supertramp sound so unique back in the day and a very special mention must go to Aaron MacDonald who has been by Rogerís side since 2004. Aaron provides the necessary musical back up that brings the Supertramp sound back to life so brilliantly. He has an impressive array of instruments at his disposal which would quite frankly put a torture master to shame, but this is no test of pain we are subject to, it is instead, quite literally music to the ears. David Carpenter and Bryan Head provide a rousing rhythm section on bass and drums and Kevin Adamson is allowed the opportunity to showcase his talents backing up on keyboards and then on the Grand Piano during the crowd pleaser Child Of Vision from the Breakfast In America album, of which this particular tour is named after.
Other classics such as the "double actĒ of Easy Does It and Sister Moonshine from the 1975 release Crisis? What Crisis? appear early on in the set but it was another song from that album which came as a rare treat to loyal fans as Roger introduced Lady, the brilliant opener of the flip side of the album. Having never seen him perform this classic song during the previous times I have seen him, I was particularly keen to hear the live version 36 years after it was written. I wasnít to be disappointed as I was taken on yet another magical trip down memory lane to the late 80ís, a time when I first discovered Rogerís music.
Unfortunately the author of this review isnít old enough to be able to claim witness to any of the 1970s or 1980s live Supertramp shows; however,all good things come to those who wait, as they say, and I have indeed been privileged to observe the magic of Roger Hodgson starting off with the near riotous UK comeback at the Shepherdís Bush Empire in November 2005; a concert that will live long in the memory, and with footage rare, due to the lack of decent mobile phone technology at the time, memories of that great night come flooding back tonight in Liverpool.
The second half of last nightís show started off with another song off "CrisisĒ with The Meaning getting an airing to an appreciative Liverpudlian crowd. We were also treated to one of Rogerís most spiritual songs in Lord Is It Mine, another opportunity for Roger to mesmerise us with his beautiful voice, no doubt stretching it to its limits on them wonderful high notes that only he can provide. This song was also dedicated to a fan in the audience who had recently lost somebody very dear to them.
Death And A Zoo came next and the crowd sat in silence as Roger and his band played out an atmospheric performance which provided a wonderful mixture of sounds and lighting to give the song a real theatre-like effect.
It was shortly after that Roger sat down with his guitar and explained to us how much influence The Beatles and in particular John Lennon had had on his life and his music. Two years ago at the same venue he had played Across The Universe to an appreciative crowd in tribute to Liverpoolís most famous sons, again the crowd lapped it up as Roger gave a flawless rendition of the Lennon Classic. Cue the standing ovations again.
Before the encore Roger treated us to the timeless classic Dreamer and then produced a spellbinding rendition of Fools Overture.
The encore then presented Roger with the opportunity to make a second dedication to a couple who were celebrating their wedding anniversary, as he sang Two Of Us alone with his acoustic guitar at the middle of the stage Ė a very nice touch indeed.
We were nearing the end of the night but we still had time for two more Hodgson classics and a bit of audience participation as Roger welcomed the crowd to come to the front and sing-along to Give A Little Bit and Itís Raining Again complete with dancing umbrellas. It had been raining all day in Liverpool after all. Itís fair to say that the ageing Philharmonic security staff really didnít know how to react to this manoeuvre by a normally placid, subdued "PhillyĒ audience. But it all passed off in good spirit. How could it not do with such a humble charismatic man conducting the crowd with his every move.
So after two and a half hours it was all over and we retired once again to the "PhillyĒ Pub to discuss the show and the inevitable comparisons with his gig two years ago. Opinions were mixed but personally I felt that this one was far superior. The atmosphere was more electric this time around and an appreciative crowd observed with respect that the songs that helped influence their lives up to now were still being sang with the same passion and meaning that they had been when they heard them for the first time all those years ago.
In any case Iím not sure that itís suitable to make comparisons between particular Roger Hodgson shows. Letís just be grateful that heís still got the good health, ability and the desire to take us on his journey with him for the night, and long may it continue.