October 27, 2006
By BILL HARRIS - Toronto Sun
Roger Hodgson got a very pleasant surprise when he joined Ringo Starr's all-star band for a tour five years ago.
Hodgson, the former lead singer of British art-pop band Supertramp, wasn't sure if anyone in Canada would remember who he was, or the songs he wrote.
But Hodgson clearly was underestimating just how important Supertramp was in Canada in the 1970s and '80s, thanks to albums like Crime Of The Century and Breakfast In America, and singles like Give A Little Bit and The Logical Song.
"I think I had forgotten a little bit by that point, because I had been away for a long time," said the 56-year-old Hodgson, who will play Casino Rama tonight and tomorrow.
"The Ringo tour was the first time in a while that I had been back through Canada. It doesn't take long, even a year or two away, where that insecure place in you begins to wonder, 'Are they going to still remember me?' But for me the high point of the Ringo tour was playing the Canadian shows."
Supertramp always was big in Canada, and for some reason particularly in Quebec. Hodgson's recently released concert DVD, Take The Long Way Home, was recorded at Place Des Arts in Montreal, and he took part in an episode of Canadian Idol earlier this year.
"Canada really was first," said Hodgson, recalling Supertramp's rise. "We did have a No. 1 album in England, but something happened with Canada. It just exploded.
"I remember one day we were giving away tickets in Louisville, Ky., literally on the street handing tickets to people trying to get an audience for the night, and a few nights later we were at the Montreal Forum playing to an ecstatic, breathless audience. And it was just mind-blowing at the time, because we had never played places the size of the Forum before."
Hodgson, who lives in California now, greatly has enjoyed getting reacquainted with his own playlist over the past few years. After he left Supertramp in the mid-'80s, it took some time for him to realize he could tour on his own.
"I had lost my taste for (live performance)," Hodgson said. "I didn't even think in those terms, to tell you the truth, because I was so wrapped up in raising my family. But I don't think I ever realized I could tour by myself.
"I do have a sax player with me (currently), but at that time I equated touring with, 'I have to have a band, I have to have a whole production, I have to have busses and everything else.' It just felt too huge a thing to put together.
"So it was very enlightening for me when I did my first solo show, because I thought, 'Wow, that's amazing.' And the reaction from the audience was amazing."
Hodgson enjoys the intimate connection he feels with his fans these days, because he admitted he was "kind of an introvert" back in his Supertramp days.
"I never spoke," Hodgson said. "Actually, the first time I spoke with Supertramp was to tell the world I was leaving."
If shyness overtakes Hodgson again, he always can let his songs speak for themselves -- especially in Canada.
"We had two diamond albums in Canada (representing sales of one million units each), which back then meant that about one in 20 people had Crime Of The Century and Breakfast In America," Hodgson recalled.
"It's my favourite award we got, this little black plaque with -- well, it's not a real diamond, I wish it were -- but it's in the middle. It's stunning, one in 20. It really was incredible."