Hodgson’s power and grace lights the night


Updated: 05/26/07 6:46 AM

Nearly 40 years ago, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies cofounded Supertramp.

The group’s sound — a poetic blend of Beatles-based harmonic complexity, the grandiosity of the best progressive rock, and an intellectual and spirited strain of pop — spawned several of the finest rock albums of the 1970s, and became a cornerstone in the musical educations of a generation of listeners.

Hodgson’s songs have aged incredibly well, the compositional sophistication, incisive and intelligent lyrics and bountiful soulfulness sounding perhaps even more powerful in an age when very few songwriters set their standards so high. Like his songs, Hodgson remains a real life force in person, his beaming intensity and cleareyed generosity as both musician and host bearing the indelible marking of a light still burning brightly.

On Friday, Hodgson, — with only saxophonist and harmony vocalist Aaron MacDonald for company — held a full house inside the Avalon Ballroom in the palm of his hand for two hours. During the show, he was far from stingy with his bestknown songs and generous with new compositions, as well.

This was not a casual crowd assembled here. These were longtime fans of Supertramp and Hodgson, and what appeared to be a healthy portion of 20-somethings who might’ve nicked “Crime of the Century” and “Breakfast in America” from their parents’ collections.

The evening was incredibly emotional, both onstage and out front, where several members of the audience seated near me wept openly during such yearning-laced bits of musical poetry as “Lord Is It Mine” and “Hide in Your Shell.” This might sound corny, but it certainly wasn’t — Hodgson’s songs boast airy melodies that are easy to love, but he digs deep and hits hard, marrying melody to lyric like few other writers this side of McCartney and Lennon.

Dressed in a flowing white shirt and black slacks, Hodgson looked pretty much the same as he appeared 30 years ago, when he strode onstage to a standing ovation, sat down at the electric piano, and sounded the opening left-hand chords heralding “Take the Long Way Home.” Immediately, it was apparent that time has done nothing to weather Hodgson’s voice, a high tenor able to reach for [and fully grasp] incredibly elevated notes with grace.

Grabbing one of two mouthwatering [for the guitarists in the audience, anyway] Guild 12- string acoustics, Hodgson led the crowd through a spirited “Give a Little Bit,” one of the tunes that deservedly earned the man his reputation as a writer of incredibly uplifting songs that are simultaneously musically adventurous.

“Lovers in the Wind,” from “In the Eye of the Storm,” Hodgson’s first solo album after leaving Supertramp in the early 1980s, was an elegant ballad performed at the grand piano. “Hide in Your Shell,” from Supertramp’s “Crime of the Century” album, found MacDonald spraying gorgeous tenor sax lines around Hodgson’s vocal, which was spot-on. The early tune “Rosie Had Everything Planned” featured some textural melodica playing from Mac- Donald. Another newer piece, “Along Came Mary,” boasted a haunting Celtic melody, and MacDonald underscored it as he switched between tin whistle and soprano sax. This was one of the set’s high points.

Another — not surprisingly — was “The Logical Song,” the pop song equivalent of James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” It came as a shock when Hodgson revealed that he wrote this tune while still in high school, trapped in an all-male boarding school he described as oppressive at best.

Hodgson’s set was absolutely flawless, but more importantly, it was inspiring. His is clearly a generous spirit, one that serves his prodigious talent well.