Friday, August 10, 2012

Concert Review: Roger Hodgson at Snoqualmie Casino, Aug. 9, 2012

"I've been to over 90 concerts, and this is the best one I've ever seen!"

So said a guy standing behind me as the VIP section crowded toward the stage for the encore of Roger Hodgson's show. For all I know, it could have been the beer talking and he's one of those guys who loves everything and everyone when he gets tipsy -- but as a veteran of a hundred or so shows myself, I'd say this one ranks in my own top 10.

It was a gorgeous night for an outdoor concert, right around 70 degrees when the show started. Roger kicked things off with the Supertramp hit "Take the Long Way Home," and then he set the mood for the evening by taking a few minutes to say hello to the capacity crowd. The first thing I noticed was how much he smiled, and the next thing that struck me was how humble and gracious he seemed. This is a guy who sold 60 million albums with Supertramp, but he was completely down to earth. He talked about how grateful he is that he's gotten a "second lease on life" with his music and that it still meant so much to so many people after all these years.

See, the thing about Roger is that he left Supertramp in the early '80s, at the height of their fame, because he had small children growing up at home who didn't even know him -- so he walked away from his career to become a family man (now that speaks right to my heart). He built a home recording studio and put out three solo albums in that time -- but he soon realized that he didn't have much name recognition outside Supertramp, which had continued on without him. Around the turn of the century, with his kids grown, he took to the road again and began building a name for himself all over again. Now he's finally receiving critical acclaim for his music as Roger Hodgson, rather than as "that guy from Supertramp," and it's well overdue.

And the songs have endured. Roger says he still loves singing them because to him they're like snapshots in time of his own growth as a person. Anyone who knows Roger's songs knows that he writes introspective lyrics about what it means to love, to seek the truth, to be human. One of his best-known pieces, "The Logical Song," was all about losing the innocence and wonder of youth as we grow up and get stuffed full of facts and rules and opinions. We learn how to act outwardly toward society, but we lose touch with who we are inwardly. "Please tell me who I am," goes the song's most poignant line.

Before moving on, he asked us all to forget our cares for the next two hours and enjoy the music -- and he said he hoped he'd sing a few songs that would touch everyone in the audience and possibly bring back some good memories. "Nothing speaks to our memories like music," he said, and I've found that to be true in my own life. That's why music is by far my favorite artistic medium.

Later, before launching into his beautiful acoustic piece "Even in the Quietest Moments," Roger the Englishman mentioned how he was blown away by the natural beauty of America the first time he came here -- and no place more than the Pacific Northwest. "Do most of you live here?" he asked. "Lucky you," he said in reply to our cheers. He said he wrote "Quietest Moments" when he was out communing with the beauty of nature all around him, and even in the still quiet of the forest he was in, he could feel a nearly palpable energy that reminded him of our connection with something bigger than all of us -- whether you call it nature, God, the universe, or whatever. But in deference to the nice weather, he said he'd save his Supertramp song "It's Raining Again" to the end of the show. "It normally rains a lot here, doesn't it?" he asked, getting lots of knowing chuckles in reply. "Well, I wrote that song before I ever came to Seattle, but if I'd come to Seattle first, maybe I would have written it about your city."

This was the setlist:

Take the Long Way Home
In Jeopardy (from his first solo album, In the Eye of the Storm)
Lovers in the Wind (also from Storm)
Hide in Your Shell
Easy Does It
Sister Moonshine
Breakfast in America ("Everybody loved that song but my girlfriend at the time," Roger said.)
C'est le Bon
A Soapbox Opera
The Logical Song
Death and a Zoo (from his excellent third solo album, Open the Door)
If Everyone Was Listening
Child of Vision
Even in the Quietest Moments
Don't Leave Me Now
Fool's Overture


Two of Us
Give a Little Bit
It's Raining Again

The songs that got the biggest reactions were the ones you'd expect: "Give a Little Bit," "The Logical Song," "Dreamer," "Breakfast in America," "Take the Long Way Home," "It's Raining Again." But the most beautiful part of the show for me was when Roger's band left the stage and he sang "Even in the Quietest Moments" all by himself, with just his 12-string guitar. Stripped to its delicate core, the song revealed the fullness of its reverence for the quiet power of nature. You could hear the emotional sincerity in Roger's voice.

And the single biggest treat for me was to see "Fool's Overture," Roger's epic piece that laments the folly of humanity. Roger still captures the soaring, wistful mood of the piece as his high tenor hits the stratosphere, making for a piece that sounds like something Yes could have pulled off back in the '70s. (Little wonder that Roger was asked to replace Jon Anderson when the latter left Yes in the late '80s.) It was a total goosebump moment seeing this one performed live.

The only thing I would have liked was to hear more from Open the Door, which in my book stands right alongside any of his Supertramp work. The swooping majesty of the album's opening cut, "Along Came Mary," played over the PA as Roger and his band left the stage after the encore, but along with Roger's performance of "Death and a Zoo," that's all we got.

But, of course, Roger knew most of the crowd was there to hear Supertramp. And on that, he delivered and then some. He and his band put on an impeccable performance, and his enthusiasm for his music was highly contagious, as we were all smiling and dancing and singing along. Those two hours flew by.

And it never did rain.

Roger says hello.

"Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned / I know it sounds absurd / Please tell me who I am."

"Give a little bit of your love to me ..."

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