"Give a Little Bit"    [ 06 ]   
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Mar 2010

 Roger Hodgson

I attended my first concert 20 years ago: Petra ("Beyond Belief"). Since then, I have managed to score a show about once every other year . . so, less than 10 concerts so far. Some have been spiritually inspiring (Petra, David Meece, Cindy Morgan, Michael W. Smith), while others were more just creatively exhilarating (Peter Gabriel "Up", twice with Rush for "Presto" & especially "Counterparts"). But none have even come close to excelling on *both* points like the man I'm writing about today. Through sheer personal presence, musicality, and audience connection, no one approaches the kind of experience Roger Hodgson shares with his audiences, globe-spanning fans, and the world in general.

 Breakfast in America

For those who are thinking "Roger who?" . . Roger Hodgson was one of the founders of Supertramp, the prog-pop, slightly jazzy band from the 70's & early 80's who released "Breakfast in America" as probably one of the most recognizable pop albums of all time, featuring hits like "Take the Long Way Home", "The Logical Song", "Lord Is It Mine" and the title track – all penned by this guy. In fact, most of their best songs were created by Roger. However, he eventually left the band in 1983 to pursue a solo career. Supertramp, under the continued leadership of Rick Davies, morphed into more of a kind of bluesy ensemble. Meanwhile, Roger released a couple solo albums, then had a bad accident in which he broke both of his wrists which, among other things (such as raising his family), kept him out of the music industry for about a decade. He returned to the stage in the late 90's touring as the "Solo Tramp" and presented new material that was, in a word, breathtaking.

He had long been known as the 'gentler' of the two lead composers for Supertramp, crafting haunting melodies and lyrical snapshots such as "School", "Sister Moonshine", "Hide in Your Shell", "Even in the Quietest Moments", as well as some of pop music's most endearing titles like "Give a Little Bit" and "Dreamer". These sensibilities were showcased the night I saw him in concert for the first time in early March, 2000, at the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas. He opened the show by simply strolling out onstage, strumming a lilting chord progression on his guitar, grinning at us all like he just couldn't believe he had the privilege of meeting with us this way, sharing his soul in the form of a new song called "Along Came Mary". To this day, I don't think I've eve heard anything more beautiful created by just one person onstage with just one instrument and a singer's voice like this. Amazing. I was stunned - and then sat back in this intimate forum to bask in the creativity and obvious joy this man poured out for the next two hours.

He spoke freely with the audience, smiling I think for the entire evening, sharing little stories about how he had come up with the music that had defined so many of our growing-up years. He wheeled a big old pump-organ out on the stage and explained that *this* instrument was the very one upon which he created tunes like "The Logical Song". He then started pumping the pedals and played a few songs as they sounded when he had first written them, before releasing them to the world through his next Supertramp album. Incredible to hear the influence of this instrument in the tunes, and retro-engineer the melodies of the radio versions to this heaving see-saw organ source. It made sense, and seemed so obvious once he had played them for us like this.

It was a magical night, an encounter I spoke of for months afterward with my family and friends, insisting that if they ever had the chance to catch Roger Hodgson in concert, they needed to stop what they were doing and get tickets Right Now!

A few months after that show, he released a new studio album entitled "Open the Door". Due to some French marketing snafu, it was only released in Europe, so it took me a few months to find and order a copy (from Holland no less). When it finally arrived one hot day in July 2001, I was on my way to go rent a movie for the evening. This was the CD playing in my economical Subaru Impreza while stopped at a red light that evening, when some yahoo in a hopped-up Dodge Ram truck slammed into me from behind doing 50 miles per hour. My car accordioned like a tin can and was slammed into cross traffic, bouncing off a Suburban and into a light post - on fire by now, of course. Unbelievably, I survived with only a few broken ribs and a nasty gash across my forehead, and even recovered the disc some days later (unscathed in the CD player) from the scrapped wreck of my auto. That, and myself, are all that survived in my car from the crash. (Good thing I was driving alone that night - any passengers wouldn't have made it!)

 In the Eye of the Storm
 Hai Hai
 Take the Long Way Home
2007  [Concert DVD]
 Rites of Passage
 Open the Door
1997  [live set]

As the years rolled by, I have continued to enjoy his music as a part of my life, and collected most of the old Supertramp albums on CD. Once in a while I still visit Roger's website to check on his touring schedule, and learn whether or not he has released anything new lately. As of a month ago, he was nowhere near Phoenix or the southwestern states, so imagine my shock when a friend handed me a newspaper ad listing Roger Hodgson coming to town the following weekend! I couldn't believe it! I snapped up tickets for another buddy and myself to check out the show, and was transported once again just as I was 10 years ago.

The venue this time was the 'Sage Court' cradled in the arms of the exquisite Marriott resort in northern Phoenix. It's an open grassy kind of area, set up with white lawn chairs before a canopied open-air stage, all surrounded by a meandering waterway. Indigenous brown rabbits loped around the perimeter, and a sweet fragrance hung in the air . . perhaps from one of the fine restaurants nearby, or a cook-out up in the pool area behind the stage, where tiki torches flamed into the night. A full moon rose over the scene as Roger took the stage. He had a fellow musician with him, whose name is Aaron McDonald, I believe. No slouch he, who was tasked with replacing The Rest Of Supertramp all by himeslf, playing key elements in certain songs on a variety of instruments.. saxophones, keyboards, synths, a little red melodica, and of course, providing backup vocals as needed. With that same warm smile, Roger greeted everyone, stated that this venue seemed to feel more like an intimate party —(he had just played a sold-out show in California the night before)— at which the crowd roared, and then launched into his opening number: "Take the Long Way Home"!

March 28, 2010 Setlist
"Take the Long Way Home"
"Give a Little Bit"
"Lovers in the Wind"
"Hide in Your Shell"
"Easy Does It"  *
"Sister Moonshine"
"Breakfast in America"
"Along Came Mary"
"The Logical Song"
"Lord Is It Mine"
"Even in the Quietest Moments"
"Child of Vision"
"If Everyone Was Listening"
"Don't Leave Me Now"
"Fool's Overture"
encore: "School"
encore: "It's Raining Again"
*  He had the audience do all the whistle parts

We had great seats, my friend and I in the 4th row, affording us a top-notch view of his playing techniques. I really couldn't believe how uncomplicated his method is on piano . . . just hammering out pulsing chords with subtle note changes using his right hand, while his left hand knocks out melody-supporting octave lines. I couldn't believe it -- - All these years, so mesmerized by the sounds, I never once considered trying that approach for myself! When he released his first solo album years ago, I heard "Lovers in the Wind" and thought I could figure it out on a gimpy Casio keyboard I had in Germany. Though I can do so now (arpeggios & deftly colored chords), back in the mid-80's it was beyond my abilities, and so I just hung up the idea of ever emulating his style. But this night, there it was, right in front of me, as if just watching over his shoulder as he played a tune for us in his living room . . I was astonished, to say the least! How fundamental his approach in making such magical music!

Then he stepped up and left my fledgling skills in the dust by picking up his guitar, and launched into "Give a Little Bit"!  The crowd went crazy with shouts and cheers, which continued on into the night as he played one incredible song after another. My favorites from his set are highlighted in blue to the right, but by far — just like 10 years ago — when he started into "Along Came Mary" it just melted the night into a dream. There is something about that song, the melody, and how he plays it live (the studio CD version comes nowhere close to how it sounds/feels 'live') that simply transports the hearer sonically . . quite unlike any other music I think I've ever heard. The effect has not diminished even after 10 years . . .

Other incredible stand-outs include a set of my personal favorites: "Lord Is It Mine", "Even in the Quietest Moments", and a surprise to see him play solo with just one man backing him up, "Child of Vision". "Fool's Overture" was also a revelation to hear in this manner. And of course, standards like "The Logical Song" and "Hide in Your Shell" were just amazing, not to mention "Lovers in the Wind" as played on a full-size piano . . .

He doesn't share this from the stage so much that I am aware of, but I've read interviews in which he freely declares how most of his 'love songs' were written for or about his search for God. What honesty! I always suspected as much about his lyrics, but seeing him again this evening, hearing his songs like this with his face turned brightly toward the lights and the darkened sky beyond - - the rightness of it seemed so self-evident.

All formality was lost in the congenial mood spun by an hour or two in the company of his music. By the end of his show, people were crowding the stage, eagerly reaching up to shake his hand, share a few well-meant words with him face to face. He not only welcomed this, leaning down and listening, chatting and laughing, but he genuinely seemed to relish such unpretentious connections with his listeners. He closed out the evening with a couple encore tunes, ending the night with a rousing rendition of "It's Raining Again", leaving everyone with a sense that they were about to *POP* for the sheer pleasure of the sounds! Just an amazing show, a wonderful experience . . . a genuineness of spirit and sharing I have never encountered in any other live show - bar none!

In closing this rather uncharacteristic blog-post about a Grand and Wonderful evening with a living gift in the world of music, I will do something I rarely do, and quote some other bloggers out there who, like me, have tried to capture the indescribable magic found in the music and persona of this man in concert:


Memories are awakened . . . the music makes you dream. You don’t need to be a connoisseur of Hodgson to catch that his music is sophisticated and well-conceived.

Where the most of his songs that he played were originally composed for a whole band, he reduced the number of musicians to two in Göttingen. Hodgson switches between keyboards, guitar and grand piano, sings his songs and his assistant arranges the musical accompaniment. In his songs he sings from life and from love, from problems that existed now and then. May it be his long lasting experience or the “We all love each other” atmosphere, which he creates through his moderation: he succeeds in opening the hearts of the listeners for his music. Let’s come back to that Wednesday in 2009, when Roger Hodgson performed in Göttingen. Oh well, it was just the same as back in the days... Roger Hodgson won the heart of the audience again.


Göttinger Tageblatt
Written by Rhea Maria Richter
English translation by Claudia Yildiz


From beginning to the end – it was magical. One thing is that I never, ever will grow tired of these songs that have been with me since childhood, another is hearing them live, and a third thing is that Roger’s voice seems to be better than ever – and Aaron impressed us all by playing/multitasking even more instruments than usual! I know – you can read that in so many reviews that Roger’s voice is as good as always, maybe even stronger. But it IS true! I have attended several concerts since 2006, and they were always great – but this concert is without a doubt the best of all of those I’ve attended.

What makes a concert so wonderful anyway? Is it Roger’s wonderful voice, beautiful compositions, great lyrics? Is it the magic of two multi-talented guys playing together? Yes. That’s it! But there’s something more. You find great musicians everywhere, but nothing compares with Roger’s shows.

The answer is: Roger is a very ‘including’ artist, which means, he talks a lot to the audience, is joking, telling stories – and it is so clear that the audience loves it, and Roger loves his fans and the audience.

... when he played “It’s Raining Again”- people were literally dancing, jumping, singing, clapping – and even after he had left stage, the applause went on and on and on.



Word on the web describes some New Songs that he's been playing on this tour.  :-)  Unfortunately, none of them found their way into the nostalgic lineup he played this evening, but I have read people describing "The Awakening" and "Teach Me To Love Again" as both Amazing and Beautiful. This sounds very much like my attempt to describe his live version of "Along Came Mary". And another one out there is called "Rosie Had Everything Planned" but I have not heard any of these, nor any others he may have been crafting for a long-overdue new album! Ten years ago, he shared that he believed his best music was yet ahead of him. The music he continues to translate from dreams to reality only seems more sonorous as the years go by... He observed tonight that it has been 30 years [!] since he last played a show in Phoenix, and hopes that it won't take another 30 years to return!  Let us hope . . . and if you ever get the chance, dear reader . . .


Come away, come away with me

Far away where the eyes can't see

Come away to another time

Pardon me if you lose your mind . . .

05  (2010)
(2010)  07