Welcome. As an interjection, it would have been an appropriate greeting for the audience to give Roger Hodgson and his band upon their return to Arizona, Friday night, April 25, 2014 at the Wild Horse Pass Casino Ovations LIVE! Showroom in Chandler, for the opening night of their 2014 “Breakfast in America” World Tour. But when Roger Hodgson performs, welcome is the feeling he gives to his audience.
Seeing Roger Hodgson in concert gives one the warm, comfortable, feel found when reuniting with a long lost friend. Whether it’s the musings of a 19 year old Hodgson that wrote “Breakfast in America,” or the lovelorn Hodgson that composed “Give A Little Bit,” Hodgson’s lyrics have already opened up his feelings to the listener. Couple that with Hodgson’s easy going on stage demeanor and in between song insights and not only do you feel you know him, but, despite many years that may have gone by, that it was just yesterday that the two of you spoke.
There is something special about opening nights. There is an extra camaraderie found in the reuniting of band members that flows over into reuniting with an audience as well. Granted, not everything will be perfect, but that just adds to the comfort of the experience. Despite a couple of botched moments, rather than worry about them, Roger and his band laughed them off. It was easy to understand that for Hodgson there was a certain degree of adjustment from “emptying my dishwasher last night to being here on stage.”
For anyone in attendance who may not have recognized the name Roger Hodgson or known that he was a key songwriter and vocalist for the popular group Supertramp, there was no mistaking his was the voice found on Supertramp hits “Take the Long Way Home,” and “School,” which opened the show. For the following 95 minutes, Hodgson and his band successfully allowed everyone to “put all our troubles outside and have some fun.”
Two songs, “In Jeopardy,” and “Lovers in the Wind,” off of Hodgson’s first solo album, 1984’s “In the Eye of the Storm,” followed. The latter song was Hodgson’s first venture of the night to the grand piano on stage and with it, the realization of the majesty of Hodgson’s compositions. There was also that “aha” moment when one realized that none of the sixteen songs Hodgson would play during the evening, including five top twenty U.S. Billboard hits, contained a lead guitar part.
Incredibly, Hodgson’s band contains no lead guitarist. Instead Hodgson has surrounded himself with four amazingly talented musicians. Aaron MacDonald, on saxophone, fife, vocals, tongue clicking, harmonica, keyboards and just about any other instrument or sound Hodgson might choose to throw at him, rightfully earned standing ovations for his work throughout the night.
Keyboardist/vocalist, Kevin Adamson, one of three keyboardists on some songs, received some well-deserved spotlight time on the grand piano during “Child of Vision.” The rhythm section of bass player/vocalist, David Carpenter and hidden behind the plants and Plexiglas (“for your protection”) drummer, Bryan Head continually drove Hodgson’s music forward. Watching these musicians interact with the enjoyment they appeared to be having on stage enhanced an already pleasant experience.
Equally impressive was the set list Hodgson chose. There were the required, but never get old, Supertramp hits such as “The Logical Song,” and “Dreamer,” a song that Hodgson never imagined having “to sing so high at this age.” There were the lesser known, but outstanding Supertramp tracks such as “Lady,” “Rosie Had Everything Planned,” and “If Everyone Was Listening.”
From Hodgson’s latest solo album, “Open the Door” (2000), the band played “Death and a Zoo,” a beautiful song with an almost mystical sound to it. The song’s climatic ending, complete with jungle sounds, made it far different than some of the pop tunes Hodgson has penned. Then again, the body of Hodgson’s work has always contained a variety of musical themes.
Witness the two Hodgson written Supertramp opuses, “Child of Vision,” and “Fools Overture.” The hypnotic, almost bump and grind sound of “Child of Vision,” had audience and band members’ heads bobbing and grooving to the beat. The long instrumental introduction to “Fools Overture,” was equally mesmerizing. With these two songs from Roger Hodgson, you don’t just hear the music, you feel it.
The long standing ovation earned after “Fools Overture,” demanded an encore. The band obliged with the soft, slow tempo, “Two of Us,” found on Supertramp’s 1975 release “Crisis? What Crisis?” Once again Hodgson strummed on acoustic guitar, an instrument he continued with for the next song.
The familiar chords that open “Give A Little Bit,” brought the audience to their feet and for the first time all night, the audience was in massive sing-a-long mode. Encouraged by the now openly enthusiastic crowd, Hodgson and company gave the gathering one final tune. With the wish that maybe the song “would bring some rain,” to the parched Arizona desert, the evening closed with the peppy, “It’s Raining Again.”
There wasn’t a lot of rhythmic hand clapping , dancing in the aisles or loud singing along by the audience during the show. But there were lots of smiles. Smiles on the faces of those in the crowd and smiles on the faces of those on stage. The kind of smile you have when you feel welcomed and accepted.
Those fortunate people that may have tickets for the future performances of Roger Hodgson’s 2014 “Breakfast in America” Tour might ask, so how was opening night? Was it wonderful, beautiful, magical? It was bloody marvelous.
Set List: Take The Long Way Home | School | In Jeopardy | Lovers in the Wind | Breakfast In America | Lady | Rosie Had Everything Planned | The Logical Song | Death And A Zoo| If Everyone Was Listening | Child of Vision | Dreamer | Fool’s Overture | Encore: Two of Us | Give A Little Bit | It’s Raining Again