Zweibrücken, Germany ~ August 27, 2015 ~
Reflection by Elke Beckett
On their return to Europe, Roger and the band opened the Zweibruecken City Festival. This intimate festival is in its first year and it sounded like the promoters were incredibly proud to have Roger Hodgson in town. Zweibruecken is not that far from France, in fact it once even belonged to France. The city is famous forroses and horses and it appeared that Roger knew more about the city's history than most of the local people in the audience – but more on that later.
As this was my first concert this year, I was curious to see how the whole concert experience has grown and changed. Beginning with the stage, the first additions that caught my eye were four oversize lightbulbs on tripods arranged behind the grand piano. I love the atmosphere these lights add to the piano songs like “Lovers in the Wind“, “Only Because of You – Lord is it Mine“ or “If Everyone Was Listening“.
The grand piano, by the way, was white this time. I think this was the first time for me to see Roger play a white grand piano – I forgot to double check whether it actually was a “Schimmel“ piano, which would have been very fitting for the city of horses (Schimmel is the German word for white horse). But leaving the puns aside and returning to the lighting, it turned out that a lighting specialist has been added to the crew and the new light show is great. Spotlights are now on each band member when a solo is performed, so for instance, when Kevin walks over to the grand piano for his great solo during “Child of Vision“, the spotlight is on him. During “Fool's Overture“ there were moments when the stage was in total darkness to mirror the dark passages of the song and it was also during “Fool's“ that the blinding flashlights added some extra drama to this epic song. Plus, when Roger says that he cannot see enough of the audience, his lighting specialist immediately responds to that by turning up the lights in the auditorium.
This open air was once again one of those concerts where I'm sure that Roger had his share in keeping the weather dry. Yes, he can do magic like that. First of all, they had an opening act and when they came on stage, it looked like this would become a wet concert. Light rain set in, the first rain capes were unfolded and the opening band had pity on us but also teased us by saying that they were lucky being dry up there on stage. They asked us to clap along to their songs, promising us that this was the only way to keep the weather dry. So we clapped but it did not help – during their performance the raindrops kept falling on and off. But after the soundtechs had prepared the stage and Roger came on, there was no further rain --- until he started to play the very last song, which was – you guessed it – “It's Raining Again“. It was just after that final song that the rain set in for good and it was to continue through the rest of the night and most of the following day.
Tonight, nature was a great additional band member anyway – not only did the rain not miss its cue, the wind also played along rather brilliantly. It was calm all of the night but during “Fool's Overture“ we suddenly had quite a bit of a cool breeze which intensified the goosebumps that Roger's voice always causes during that song and when we got to the line: “and you tell me that you've so many seeds yet to sow“ my immediate association was “they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind“...
Another song that demonstrates the sheer brilliance of Roger's songwriting skills is „Death and a Zoo“ The jungle and wild animal sounds, Roger's voice and lyrics combined with Aaron's additional, non-verbal singing and the bass and drums just make you feel it all – death and a zoo – and you don't even have to understand asingle word of English. Transcending language barriers – that's what music iscapable of doing when performed by great artists.
As you may have probably realized, this is once again a review that does not follow the concert's chronology – I hope to make up for that by adding the setlist at the end of the review.
I was very impressed once again by the entity that Roger and the band have grown into –and they keep evolving! Another premiere for my family tonight: “Had a Dream“ -Roger playing the electric guitar. Wow. This was the part that left my husband most thrilled, saying that he wants more, more, more of Roger and his electric guitar. Our twelve-year-old son, who appears to make a seemless transition from shy little boy to ultra cool teenager (hope he'll never read this) even let his hair down during “In Jeopardy“. And to complete this list of favourites, even though it is hard for me to pick only one favourite, mine was “Along Came Mary“ as I have been missing that song on the setlists for some time. Oh, and I must add that “Love is a Thousand Times“ is a massive contender there. The passages with just Roger's voice and guitar blew me away tonight. - But what have I started now? Choosing one favourite – that is just not possible for me. I love every single song, all of them very dear to me.
Another thing that particularly intrigued me tonight were the different Marys (or are they all one and the same Mary?) showing up in Roger's songs. But before I keep wandering off here, I promised to tell you how well-versed Roger is when it comes to the history of the places he plays. At one point during the show, Roger pointed at a horse sculpture on the square and asked, only half-jokingly,whether that was Napoleon's horse. No-one in the audience (which, amongst others, consisted of many locals, as well as a lot of French fans and a couple of fans from Berlin as well) seemed to get it. I have to admit, I did not either. But I googled it. The Zweibruecken stud was very famous and when the city was French, Napoleon actually got his personal horse from them. I was impressed once again – this time by Roger's knowledge.
Thank you all for another memorable experience. And a special Thanks to Wim Daans who so generously handed me tonight's setlist. It went to Stefan who first saw Roger solo back in 1998 in Cologne.
Take the Long Way Home
Lovers in the Wind
Breakfast in America
Along Came Mary
A Soapbox Opera
Only Because of You – Lord is it Mine
The Logical Song
Death and A Zoo
If Everyone Was Listening
Had a Dream
Child of Vision
Love is a Thousand Times
Give a Little Bit
It's Raining Again
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