Review: Ex-Supertramp star Roger Hodgson warmly dazzles at Foxwoods
It's not inaccurate for ex-Supertramp star Roger Hodgson to bill his current string of concerts as a "Breakfast in America" 40th Anniversary World Tour. It IS the 40th anniversary of what is probably Supertramp's best known album, one crammed with signature, Hodgson-penned tunes "The Logical Song," "Lord Is it Mine," "The Long Way Home," the title cut, and "Child of Vision."
But Hodgson's show before a capacity crowd Friday in the Fox Theater at Foxwoods wasn't a complete replication of that album — yes, he and his band beautifully performed all those songs — but rather a warm, speculative look back across a rich career by a gifted and sincerely grateful artist. As such, fans were treated to heartfelt and joyful performances of sophisticated and ambitious, lyrically searching and searingly melodic works from across Hodgson's career. They included Supertramp efforts "Lady," "A Soapbox Opera," "School," "Sister Moonshine," "Even in the Quietest Moments," "Dreamer," the encore "Give a Little Bit" and an epic, set-closing "Fool's Overture," as well as solo gems "Death and a Zoo" and "Had a Vision (Sleeping with the Enemy)."
Hodgson, nearing his 70th birthday, emerged onstage after a refreshing, old-school, spoken-word voice-over — one of those "Please welcome, all the way from England!" type intros you just don't hear anymore. He was dressed in white shoes, slacks and a sport coat, raised a cup of (presumably) tea in toast, then seated himself at a Roland electric piano and launched into an irrepressible "Take the Long Way Home."
As only seemed proper, Hodgson still parts his shoulder-length hair in the middle so that it frames what has always been an e'er smiling — and is now a wisdom-carved — face. It all reinforces that Hodgson's cumulative experiences have made him an optimist, a sort of elder wise person who chooses to focus on mankind's capacity for good and learned to use his gifts to seek answers that he might not have discovered were it not for music.
For example, before the second tune, "School," Hodgson told us, "Let me take you on a journey." He wasn't just talking about that marvelous tune's hooky and multi-sectioned structure, or the evening's set list, but rather how the set list reflected his own growth as a person and artist. He added, "Every song I've written (happened) when I was feeling something strongly."
He made frequent references to the fact it was Valentine's Day, thanking the crowd effusively for their support and affection and letting us know it was reciprocated. He also acknowledged that it's a complex world right now and that, for the two hours of our shared experiences in the Fox Theater, it might serve us well to focus on our hearts rather than our minds.
Later, transitioning from "The Logical Song" to the shimmering beauty of "Lord is it Mine," Hodgson said, "When I picked up my first guitar, I was 12 yeard old — and suddenly I had a best friend ... it's still my best friend."
Introducing his wonderful but haunting song "Death and a Zoo," from his overlooked 2000 "Open the Door" solo album, Hodgson speculated, "If you were an animal in the wild and were captured, would you rather die or live in a zoo?" With its band-produced jungle sound effects, lightning storm lighting and the tune's thoughtful sadness, more than a few fans might have awakened Saturday as vegetarians.
But Hodgson also has a strong sense of fun; indeed, the whole night was a celebration. He reflected on the more whimsical lessons that come with the mastery of songcraft. "I wrote 'Breakfast in America' when I was 19," he said after the band's ebullient recitation of the piece. "That line about 'not much of a girlfriend, she's the only one I've got'?" He shook his head. "That didn't go down well."
Hodgson has always been instantly identifiable by his high-pitched voice — one capable of sly wit as well as a plaintive melancholy, often in the same song. For the most part, he still hits the notes. He has a thousand nights of stagecraft under his belt — shows that taught him how to use the microphone, phrasing, fall-off melodies, dynamics and falsetto — so that any frailties Friday displayed more character than anything else.
Throughout, on a stage backed by a line of palm trees, Hodgson was supported by a wonderful four piece band. The complex harmonies were consistent, and the innovative arrangements — distinctly focused on that old Rhodes electric piano and the sax/clarinet flourishes so indigenous to Supertramp's sound — were delivered with passion and virtuosity.
After almost two hours, it was time to go. As if in summation of all we'd heard and absorbed — and possibly as a reminder to himself of the wonder and magic of music — Hodgson prefaced "Fool's Overture." "I had these three pieces of music for five years," he said of the song's sprawling majesty, "before I finally figured out to put them together. And when I finally did ... it blew my mind!"
Valentine's night, Fox Theater: 1,400 minds, blown.
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