Last Updated on June 27, 2021
Roger Hodgson – November 26, 2016 – River Rock Theatre, Vancouver, BC
Supertramp had yet to truly breakthrough in America in those early years. In Canada, it was a different story, the band had already being huge, just like it was in the U.K., France and Germany, where the band’s reputation grew with every subsequent release, starting in late 1974.
The Autobiography of a Super-tramp will always be remembered as Rick Davies (keyboards, vocals), Roger Hodgson (guitars, keyboards, vocals), John Anthony Helliwell (saxophones, woodwind instruments, vocals), Dougie Thomson (bass) and Bob Siebenberg (drums), a band of sophisticated musicianship, a quintet of perfectionists.
Rick and Roger were the two creative forces in the band. Hodgson’s falsetto complemented Davies’ baritone. Played at 78 revolutions per minute, songs alternated between the two co-founders. No one skipping school. Crime of the Century grips you right from the first eerie sound of Rick’s harmonica. Few live recordings provide you with the genuine feel of being at a Supertramp show as that third of four sold-out nights at the 8,000-capacity Pavillon de Paris on that December night in 1979.
Roger Hodgson’s last breakfast in America with Supertramp was on September 25th, 1983 at the 16,000-capacity Irvine Meadows amphitheater in California on the Famous Last Words … tour. Hodgson helped propel the British band to stardom with co-founder Rick Davies during the ’70s, but creative tensions, however, led to Hodgson’s departure.
In 1984, Roger made his mark as a solo artist with the excellent “In the Eye of the Storm”. 2000’s “Open the Door” could well be a bookend to his recorded material, but hopefully not. Hodgson’s voice on this night immediately took you back to that time when you first heard 1974’s “Crime of the Century” or 1979’s “Breakfast in America”.
Gone are the days when 50 tons of equipment was shunted from city to city on five semitrailers and the movie clips as visual backdrops, including Churchill’s muttering “We shall never surrender”. The iconic and distinctive falsetto voice of Roger Hodgson hasn’t changed over the years.
White is the colour of awakening openness, growth and creativity. And so, there was Roger Hodgson, in full white attire, socks and shoes included, revealing his “Open the Door” look. Now 66, Hodgson continues to give a little bit, touring with his four-piece band consisting of two Americans, ex-John Doe’s and Peter Case’s bands, David J Carpenter (bass, backing vocals) and Bryan Head (drums) and two Canadians, Aaron MacDonald (saxophones, harmonica, keyboards, melodica, backing vocals) and Kevin Adamson (keyboards, backing vocals). Themes in Hodgson’s songs have always been soul-searching questions – Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose? How can I find love? What is love? With Roger, it has always been about the journey in one’s life. One album, “Even in the Quietest Moments” really reflected his spiritual search.
The first few notes from Roger’s Korg keyboard would be followed by Aaron’s wailing harmonica, the music reverberated throughout the sold out River Rock Theatre. Instantly recognized, “Take the Long Way Home” opened the night. That feeling of when you heard that song for the very first time thirty-seven years ago returned. It was like having the needle drop on Side 2 of “Breakfast in America”.
“We’ve got a great show for you. The only thing you’ve got to do is for the next two hours … If you’ve got stuff going on in your life. I know that we’re not living in the easiest of times and I know a lot of us do have stuff. I want you to just all leave it all outside for the next two hours,” a smiling Hodgson told the audience. “Let’s come together, celebrate, have some fun. Sing if you like. This is quite a journey all of these songs. Every night for me, it’s like a journey ’cause every one of these songs … songs that I wrote when I was feeling something so strongly, that I had to express it and the way I express it is through song. So you can imagine what I go through every night and I hope that one or two of these songs can bring back some good memories for you,” he continued.
“Let’s begin. Let’s begin by going back to schooool,” said Roger, as he begun strumming his 12-string guitar strapped over his shoulder, looking over at Aaron MacDonald distanced to his left as he started the extended harmonica intro to “School”.
With only three solo albums released in the span of thirty-three years, this night like most nights for the last fifteen or so years consisted mainly of Supertramp classics. Roger stated “There I was, 19 years old in England. I had many dreams. Dreamt of going to California and seeing all the beautiful girls there.” He joked that he didn’t know about Canada and that if he had, it might have being a whole different story … “Breakfast in Canada” as the band served up more nostalgia with “Breakfast in America” followed by “Hide in Your Shell”.
Two newer songs, albeit sixteen years old, were performed. It was like discovering pearls from the ocean floor for those not aware of this album. “Along Came Mary” and “Death and a Zoo” from “Open the Door”, his last album, was recorded mainly in France and only released in France and Austria. It could have easily been a sequel to “In the Eye of the Storm”.
It was “Two of Us”, the closing track on “Crisis? What Crisis?” that alluded to a partnership that was to carry on, but on this night the audience joined as partners when Roger put them to work. “Remember when everyone used to whistle?” quipped Roger. The audience was in unison for the start of “Easy Does It” as Roger strummed his acoustic guitar, the song flowing into “Sister Moonshine” where Roger’s strings interplayed with Aaron’s saxophone tones. There was no stoppage in music as the band continued with “The Logical Song”, bringing back memories of that iconic album cover of the New York skyline created from white china crockery and Libby the waitress striking a pose similar to that of the Statue of Liberty, holding up a glass of orange juice and a menu rather than a torch and a tablet.
Roger mentioned that it was such a fun one to play and that he never tried to write, sit down to write a song or a hit song. Whenever he did, he just fell flat on his face. “Music was really where I kind of went to be alone and just express what was going on inside.” he explained.
It took many years if not decades, but Roger Hodgson is out of his shell now. He remains to this day a very active touring musician, performing to well-received solo tours, both with and without a backing band.
Take the Long Way Home
Breakfast in America
Hide in Your Shell
Along Came Mary
Death and a Zoo
Easy Does It
The Logical Song
Lord Is It Mine
Death and a Zoo
If Everyone Was Listening
Only Because of You
Child of Vision
Had a Dream
Give a Little Bit
It’s Raining Again