What's on Winnipeg

November 16th, 2006

Rob Williams

At concerts sing-a-longs are common, but whistle-a-longs are a rarity.

Yet almost every member in the crowd of 1,000 at the Burton Cummings Theatre last night was making music with his or her lips helping former Supertramp singer Roger Hodgson with the intro to Easy Does It off 1974's Crisis? What Crisis?

The affect of nearly 1,000 people whistling together was a spine-tingling moment and did exactly what the diminutive vocalist wanted: brought the crowd together to share in the joy of music.

"It's my job to warm you all up tonight and warm my heart up. These songs are like medicine for my heart and I hope they do the same for you. Music, I think, is food for the spirit; food for the heart," he said before the anthem Give a Little Bit which the audience happily sang along to.

His sentiments might come off sounding hokey in print, but there was no doubt the smiley 56-year-old was sincere in his love of the music and the affection for the crowd, who showed him plenty of love right back with random spontaneous standing ovations.

Hodgson performed solo, switching off between keyboards, piano or acoustic guitar, backed occasionally by a saxophonist who sang harmony. The sparse instrumentation distilled the songs from grandiose prog-pop statements into simple ditties that were somehow more effective than when his former band played without him a few years ago at the Winnipeg Arena.

His instantly recognizable voice -- sort of like a British Geddy Lee -- has lost none of its power and he hit all the notes as easily as he did in his heyday, surprising some with how angrily he shouted "We're such damn fools," during the climax of Hide in Your Shell.

Hodgson mainly focused on material between 1974 and 1984, but the new piano-based ballad Oh Brother fit naturally into the set and was warmly received.

He hit all the highlights of his Supertramp and solo career, beginning with the bouncy Take the Long Way Home off the 1979 smash Breakfast In America, which Hodgson later noted was owned by one in every 15 Canadians, the boarding school-inspired Logical Song, the spirituals Lord is It Mine and Even in the Quietest Moments and the playful pop of Dreamer.

Between songs Hodgson, dressed like some kind of British knight in a puffy-shirt and black pants, was chatty and spoke about the weather, the origin of the songs and his excitement of being in Canada for first full-scale tour in more than two decades.

Following a 25-minute intermission he was joined on stage by local Canadian Idol contestant Rob James, whom Hodgson worked with earlier this year.

James joined Hodgson for three songs, including Breakfast in America, with the pair trading off verses and harmonizing.

At press time halfway through the second 60-minute set Hodgson was starting to take requests beginning with School, a radio staple off 1974's Crime of the Century.

Last night's concert was being taped for possible inclusion on the Oprah Winfrey Show as part of her Pay it Forward campaign, which features Give a Little Bit as its theme.

Concert Review

Roger Hodgson

Burton Cummings Theatre

Nov. 15, 2006

Attendance: 1,500

4 out of five stars