‘Music can be a great friend’
June 02, 2011 02:19 AM
Beirut: “I have never paid attention to what is in fashion, in terms of music,” says Roger Hodgson, “and I have been lucky, because my songs have stayed. And now I need to give.
That is why I perform at the moment as opposed to record. I need to give.”The former front man of legendary rock band Supertramp, Hodgson spoke to The Daily Star before his performance at Beirut’s Waterfront Arena Tuesday as part of the Beirut Music and Art Festival.
His musical message seemed focused on hope above all, that and “keeping faith in the good in life.”
“Music,” Hodgson continues, “is where I go to express the depths of my heart and my deepest life experiences. Joy, pain, confusion, questioning; they can all be expressed in music.”
The good things in life are something with which Hodgson has had some experience. In its heyday, Supertramp was recognized as a worldwide rock’n’roll phenomenon. To date, the band has sold over 60 million records.
After composing the music and lyrics of many of the band’s best-loved songs – including “Breakfast in America” and “The Logical Song” – Hodgson has established a successful career as a solo artist.
Though now 61, Hodgson’s solo career remains remarkably busy. In order to perform at BMAF Hodgson flew directly from a four-day tour in the U.K., to leave at dawn the following morning for California.
The Supertramp songster shows no signs of slowing down. In conversation, Hodgson is alert and energized, dedicated to fully engaging with each of his interviewers – in spite of lack of sleep and a succession of media calls. The source of all this energy, as he puts it, is his love of music and performance.
“I am lucky living the life I do,” he says, referring not to his fame and rock’n’roll lifestyle but to the power of music and the performance act itself.
“I love music,” he continues. “I love people. I love playing music. I love bringing people together – through music. That is how I am on stage. People can feel my love of playing and love for people. I’m a mirror for the audience, together we create this energy.”
He’s not exaggerating. Whirlwind as his Beirut trip was, his concert was energizing to his audience.
Opening with the Supertramp hit “Take the Long Way Home,” Hodgson did not introduce himself to the audience until after the song was done, announcing, “I am very excited to be in Beirut!”
The profession provoked wild cheers from his listeners.
The BMAF concert was Hodgson’s second Lebanon performance.
He played at the Byblos International Festival in 2005 and received a tremendous reception, to the extent that the former Supertramper expressed surprise at the popularity of his songs in Lebanon.
This too reaffirmed for him the possibilities of music.
“People are all the same everywhere,” he says in interview. “We all have hearts. We are affected by climate and history – but we are all the same. In Lebanon the spirit of hope is indomitable. It touches me, that spirit. It is incredible to have written songs that are part of people’s lives here. It is amazing that they have such a connection with my songs.
“What I love about Lebanon,” he continues, “is how much the people enjoy themselves.”
The concert lived up to the synergy between performer and audience that Hodgson anticipated in his interview.
While the audience swayed to slower melodies of tunes like “In Jeopardy,” they responded unhesitatingly to Hodgson’s request that they accompany him in whistling along to “Easy Does It.”
BMAF’s Grandstand venue, the city’s new open-air Waterfront Arena, seemed particularly appropriate for “Easy Does It” due to its exposure to the elements; the wind, too, joined in the whistling. Decked out with palm plants, the stage lent an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity to the evening.
Hodgson’s unique voice has lost none of its potency in the four decades that have elapsed since Supertramp was formed. As effective on stage as in the studio, Hodgson’s rendering of such hits as “School” was indistinguishable from the version he recorded so long ago.
His rendition of “Hide in Your Shell” was especially beautiful and weeping audience members waved their arms or simply swayed and hummed in thoughtful accompaniment.
It was with Hodgson’s best-known hits, “Breakfast in America” and “The Logical Song” that really got the audience going – rushing the stage, standing on chairs and dancing in any available space. It was no surprise that Hodgson got a standing ovation at the end of both songs.
Hodgson was accompanied by a band of four remarkably talented musicians: Aaron McDonald on sax, Ian Stewart on bass, Kevin Adamson on keyboards and drummer Bryan Head.
Mr. Supertramp himself alternated between synthesiser, guitar and piano.
Nowadays, Hodgson describes his music as “heart rock.” He continues to write tunes but is not recording, he says, “because I feel that in performance I can give hope. That is what I have to do.”
The importance of Hodgson’s interaction with the audience was obvious as he set the scene for each song before performing it, musing that “every night playing these songs is a journey through my life.”
Hodgson alluded to this business before the show.
“Performing solo gives a very intimate connection with the audience,” he nodded, “while a band has the advantage of the power of arrangements.”
At the beginning of the concert, Hodgson announced that “music can be a great friend.”
It’s a friendship that has accompanied the performer through seven energetic, globetrotting decades.
BMAF continues until June 12. For more details visit http://www.beirutmaf.com.