Roger Hodgson at the Pechanga Resort - Feb. 25 2011
Way back when, during the era of Reagan and New Coke, I asked this cute and funny girl I just met to see Supertramp play at the Pacific Amphitheater. That night went as well as expected and the show was great, although something was missing. That "something" was actual a "someone" - Roger Hodgson had left the band two years earlier for a solo career, similar to the career path chosen by Peter Gabriel and Roger Waters.
I promised myself that if Roger Hodgson either appeared by himself in concert, or if he rejoined Supertramp and they toured, I would be there. Lo and behold, the former opportunity arose last night at the Pechanga Resort in Temecula. I even asked the same girl to go with me, which was easy considering she's now my wife. :-)
The lights dimmed, and suddenly the opening chord of "Take The Long Way Home" filled the arena. Who knew a few hundred moms and dads could still get as rowdy as their kids at a Justin Bieber appearance? Then the lights came back up, and there was Roger at his keyboard leading his four-man backing band into the song.
First thing - the man has NOT lost any of his vocal range. He's taken good care of his voice and it never cracked or wavered once. He can still hit all the same high notes, and if you're familiar with Supertramp's hits there are plenty of them. So take care of your vocal cords and they'll take care of you!
The second song he performed was "School", this time playing the acoustic guitar. It's amazing to see someone who's so proficient on several different instruments and can switch so effortlessly between them. Made me think of when his first solo album came out, where he played all the instruments a la Paul McCartney. And in fact, Roger's next song was "Lovers In The Wind" from that album, featuring himself on the grand piano at the middle of the stage.
In between tunes he chatted a bit with the audience, revealing himself to be quite a gracious soul. He said, "I would love to play all of my songs for you, but we'd be here all night!" Of course the crowd wouldn't have minded one bit. Before playing "Hide In Your Shell" he said that many people wrote to him saying how much they appreciated and identified with the song. Another funny comment he made was introducing "Breakfast In America" by saying, "I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote this one - my mom and sisters liked it but my girlfriend at the time didn't that much."
Here's an out-of-order rundown of the other songs Roger performed:
The Logical Song
Only Because Of You
Lord Is It Mine
Easy Does It
If Everyone Was Listening (the one I really wanted to hear)
A Soapbox Opera
Along Came Mary
Child Of Vision
Know Who You Are
No "Crazy" much to my dismay, and no "It's Raining Again" much to Coleen's delight.
Roger was completely enjoying himself, smiling throughout and trading laughs with the other musicians. Turns out last night was the very first show of the world tour, and he even mentioned he'd like to do more shows in America given how enthusiastic the audience was.
A guy that looked like Peter Griffin (from Family Guy) was sitting next to me and kept yelling out for Roger to play "Rudy". It was kind of funny, especially since that one's a Rick Davies song and Roger makes it a point to only perform the ones he wrote. So for the heck of it I yelled out "Fool's Overture", a song of Roger's from "Even In The Quietest Moments". To my surprise he ended the show with it! A magnificent ten-minute opus in the same prog-pop vein as Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, and The Alan Parsons Project.
There was the obligatory leaving-the-stage and letting the crowd call him and the band out for the encore, and to our delight he played "Two Of Us" and of course "Give A Little Bit". A great song to end the show with, and we all left very happy and thankful. My only disappointment was that Roger didn't play any of the stellar electric guitar he's known for. Go back and listen to his work throughout "Crime Of The Century" and particularly the outros on "Goodbye Stranger" and "Waiting So Long" - brilliant stuff as good as any of rock's other virtuosos.
I suppose I would've enjoyed the show no matter what, being such a big fan to begin with. I always identified with musicians that have triumphed over depression and doubt, which Roger did from the late 80s to the mid 90s. He had taken a fall at home, smashed both his wrists, and doctors said he'd never play music again. It was a devastating emotional setback that made him second-guess a lot of what he'd done and what he planned for the future. But you would have never known it from the great show he gave last night. This is an man truly in touch with his audience and his art.