August 25, 2012
Chautauqua, NY USA
Review by David Brais
Photos by David Brais
Tenor "Take the Long Way Home"
Tucked away in a remote area of northwestern New York, the Chautauqua Institution is a arts community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship programs as well as recreational activities. The Institution also offers a lineup of popular entertainment designed for music lovers of every generation. Tonight, the legendary voice of Supertramp, Roger Hodgson, would take the stage to perform a remarkable collection of hits he wrote for the band during its incredible run in the '70s.
The anticipation for this final concert of the year at Chautauqua had this community buzzing. To be honest, it had me going as well. I saw Supertramp's last tour with Hodgson in 1983. His relationship with co-founder Rick Davies was almost non-existent then, and their coolness with one another permeated the air. Tonight however, there was a warm glow engulfing the town. Shop owners shut down early to attend the show. It was a business decision they would not regret. While waiting in line, I saw a large number of fans wearing old Supertramp concert shirts. Many were carrying album covers with paper and pen in hand hoping beyond hope to secure Hodgson's autograph. It was a far-fledged wish on their part, but hey, you never know. Many conversations I overheard in line centered on people's memories of past Supertramp concerts. As I was standing in line taking in the stories, and the vibrant atmosphere around the amphitheater, I turned around. Standing behind me an arm's length away was the man himself, Roger Hodgson.
The 'voice' had just exited the venue after doing a final walk through with the band. When he spotted fans waiting outside with various Supertramp paraphernalia, he walked over to greet them. Roger spoke to each person, signed whatever memorabilia they had in their possession, and repeated the gesture again and again. It was though the main act had taken some time out to personally thank you for coming out to see him perform. This was a classy move by a legendary musician, and a wonderful precursor for things to come later on.
Hodgson took the stage a little after 8 p.m. with a four-piece backing band. As the singer looked out at a near capacity crowd there to greet him, he smiled, waved, and then took up his familiar position behind the electric piano. As the opening chords to one of his many masterpieces, "Take the Long Way Home", filtered out of the amphitheater sound system, a thunderous applause broke out from the audience. It was met by an ever louder ovation as the words - "So you think you're a Romeo / Playing a part in a picture show" - were sung in Hodgson's beautiful tenor voice. It was a moment of pure ecstasy that would be repeated often throughout the evening.
The British born singer continued to bring back wonderful moments of days gone by as he strapped on the guitar to perform his composition "School" off Supertramp's breakout album, Crime of the Century. The excellent four-piece band that accompanied Hodgson included Aaron MacDonald (saxophone, harmonica, keyboards and backing vocals); Kevin Adamson (keyboards and backing vocals); David J. Carpenter (bass and backing vocals); and Bryan Head (drums and percussion). They were more than up to the task of duplicating the music to honor the words sung by one of the most identifiable voices in rock history. Each musician was at the top of their game as they brought Hodgson's Supertramp compositions to life, especially "Fool's Overture".
After the first two songs, I was anticipating a wonderful evening of Hodgson-penned Supertramp hits. The songs performed were all the composer's tunes, but several of them like "Sister Moonshine", "Two of Us", "Child of Vision" and "Hide in Your Shell", could have been replaced by "Babajai," Even in the Quietest Moment", "Goodbye Stranger" or "It's Raining Again." Even a couple of solo tunes he performed, "Death & a Zoo" and "Lovers in the Wind" could have been omitted in favor of "Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)". But hey, I'm nitpicking here on what I think an ideal set list for this gifted songwriter should be. No matter what song Hodgson sang, he delivered it in supreme fashion, and that's all that really mattered.
The banter from the stage was quite amusing at times as well. Consider this exchange before Hodgson played "Lady" from the 1975 album Crisis? What Crisis? Before he started, the singer reminded the audience of the lyrics he sang previously on "Breakfast in America" that went, "Take a look at my girlfriend she's the only one I got. Not much of a girlfriend, I never seem to get a lot." He told the audience the tune he was about to perform was for a new girlfriend after the old girlfriend heard the lyrics to the other one.
Throughout the evening, Hodgson showed genuine appreciation for the large gathering that had filled the amphitheater. Reaching deep into his personal song archives, the audience was treated to a composition harkening back to his former band's second album, Indelibly Stamped. The song, "Rosie Had Everything Planned" was the first time he had performed it on tour. The tune, ironically, was the only original song in the entire Supertramp catalog in which his former partner, Rick Davies, received no writing, or co-writing credit.
One of the highlights among many was the dedication of "Lord Is It Mine" off of Breakfast in America. Hodgson sat at his Wurlitzer grand and dedicated the song for a particular member of the audience who had sent him a request through an email. The message said he'd just been given bad news about his health, and on his 'bucket list' of things to do was ask Roger Hodgson to sing "Lord is it Mine" specifically for him. Without hesitation, the 62-year old singer moved the audience to tears with the dedication. After finishing the song, the crowd stood applauding as the artist himself stood up and acknowledged the gentleman that had sent him the heartfelt wish.
The 18-song set list was by far the longest show Hodgson had performed on the tour to date. He capped off the regular portion of his show with his ten-minute classic "Fools Overture" followed by the equally iconic "Dreamer." With the audience standing and crowding the front of the stage, the band took its bow with 'the voice' thanking everyone for coming out. The entourage would return of course, and finish up the evening with "Two of Us" and "Give a Little Bit." Once again, the band was given a standing ovation. The evening was more than complete.
Take the Long Way Home
Lovers in the Wind
Hide in Your Shell
Breakfast in America
Rosie Had Everything Planned
The Logical Song
Death & a Zoo
If Everyone Was Listening
Lord is it Mine
Child of Vision
Two of Us
Give a Little Bit