Roger Hodgson Live at the Rancho Mirage Agua Caliente Casino
Reviewed by Anthony Servante
Since Roger Hodgson began touring with a full back-up band, he has selected venues nearly 200 miles from
usually Indian Casinos located in desert towns. As such, we have a two hour
plus drive to arrive early enough to enjoy a buffet dinner, a few drinks, and
find our seats before the
starting time. This is not a complaint. It is a cry of joy. Roger Hodgson is
live in concert!
Palm Springs, we find the Rancho Mirage Agua Caliente Casino, the venue for Hodgson’s
October 26th show. The atmosphere was one of celebration and
reminiscence, old friends gathering to recapture the progressive rock hits of
Supertramp from the 70s, the years when Hodgson was part of the band he
co-founded. And by “old”, I do mean mature. The young ones in the crowd were in
their forties; the older ones in their sixties. Some fans brought their
grandkids, many of them under ten years of age. But every one was here to party
like it was 1979.
The venue before the fans arrived
The concert started sharply at nine. Hodgson and band opened the show with the Supertramp hit, Take the Long Way Home, an ironic comment, no doubt, on the long journey most of the fans had taken to reach the casino. Supertramp used to play this same song to send the crowd off at the end of the show. Hodgson welcomed the nearly sold out audience with the song. When he addressed the crowd after the opening numbers, he pointed out that it would be a night of his personal history as seen through his music from early in his career and onwards, and he didn’t disappoint. He reached back to the rarely played Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second LP, and sang one of my favorites: Rosie Had Everything Planned, about a jealous girl who kills her faithful boyfriend in a suspicious fit. He also dug into his solo work and played In Jeopardy. One of the highlights for me especially was the song Death and the Zoo. Hodgson has never played this song at any of the concerts I’ve attended and it was a rouser, complete with jungle animal sounds and a spirited beat framed by a solemn story about lost love being a choice between “death or life in a zoo”. He played Lady, another rarely played song from Supertramp that he wrote, and we could see that he and the band were having the time of their lives playing this wide range of songs.
And their joy and fun on stage was infectious. The crowd joined in with the music (never overwhelming the songs as is wont by some bands these days); instead, the fans complemented the music, for instance, on Easy Does It, where the crowd whistled along with the band members. At a few points in the show, Roger Hodgson would suddenly stop the song and comment to his mates about opening notes or asking coyly if they were ready. On Dreamer, the bass player closed out the number with a deep voiced pah-pah-pah pahm, and Hodgson remarked, “Isn’t that the best pah-pah-pah pahm you’ve ever heard?” The band laughed as loudly as the crowd. It was that kind of night.
There were a few hiccups during the evening: Some crowd members addressed Hodgson directly between numbers and nearly ruined the momentum of the show, but Roger was the consummate professional and rolled with the minor interruptions (although Security had to escort a few fans back to their seats a few times); also, Hodgson’s keyboards lost their sound a few times, but again, Roger quipped while the roadies fixed the problem and the music didn’t miss a beat, just a few notes.
The crowd was invited by Hodgson to the front of the stage for the final number, Give a Little Bit, and they obliged, dancing and swaying like twenty-year olds. Then the lights went on and the show was over. The fans left humming their favorite tunes from the show. This reviewer was invited backstage to meet Roger Hodgson and take a picture with him. He asked me if I enjoyed the show. I told him that Death and a Zoo was the highlight for me as I was a big fan of his solo work and hoped that he could work in more of these songs into his future shows. He said, “Little by little.” Then I was whisked off by Security as the next VIP was invited to meet the voice of Supertramp, Roger Hodgson.
As usual, my friends were pleased with the dozen or so hits from the Supertramp era, and I was happy with the handful of Hodgson solo songs. But one thing’s for sure: Everyone drove home satisfied and ready for the next show.