25 May 2019
Roger Hodgson – Royal Albert Hall – 23.05.19
Apparently, the Grand Organ at the Royal Albert Hall is one working pipe shy of 10,000 . It is 70 feet high , weighs approximately 150 tonnes and when constructed was the largest musical instrument on the planet. It is a monolith of Victorian engineering and dominates the whole south side of the arena , as organs go, it is a beast. Did this stop Roger Hodgson playing that bad boy during his 2 hour and 18 song set? It did not. The challenge however was actually getting to it via the rather undignified trek clambering past the delighted front row crowd whilst avoiding stepping on toes and shaking hands on route. Did this phase him? Not a jot, for the former Super Tramp frontman is one of those rare musicians , a genuine egoless multi-faceted instrumentalist singer song writer and a true gent to boot. He remarked “ I have played in many beautiful places in the world , but there is only one Royal Albert Hall “. He isn’t wrong , the venue seats a modest 5,300 , it is beautifully adorned and the acoustics outstanding. It is a classy music hall , built , admittedly before electricity, but by fault or design, it has become the must be place to play a gig in London . Clapton , Alter Bridge , Heart , Judas Priest , Muse , Chris Cornell , Scorpions and Europe to name a handful of artists that have recently trodden on its stage , but few have tickled that monster organ’s ivories.
Hodgson was the voice and (with Rick Davies) the co-writer for Supertramp’s first 7 albums between 1970-82 , who in the mid to late 70’s were radio’s favourites with the likes of ELO , they could do no wrong. Well before the arrival of social media and MTV AM/FM radio and Top of the Pops were king. Record sales of 7” singles and albums were calculated by physical units , and Supertramp sold both in the millions. Between ’74-79 they released four albums, three of which , Crime of the Century , Crisis? What Crisis and their most famous Breakfast in America are considered classics of the Arena rock/AOR/Prog Rock genre. The latter went quadruple platinum and sold over 4 million copies in the USA alone.
Growing up in the 70’s , these bands were everywhere , their songs were unexpectedly planted into the sub conscious. So much so , when the question was asked of us, how many ABBA or ELO songs dare we admit to knowing, the answer was non, that was until the music started. The same is with Supertramp , because t catchy tunes stick in the hemispheres of our brains , and when those songs started it opened up our subliminal memory banks , it cannot be helped , it makes us human.
This tour was Billed as Roger Hodgson, the voice of Supertramp , the bulk of the set comprised of his former band’s material, with tracks also taken off his last solo album , the 2000 release Open the door. There were some notable omissions mainly Goodbye Stranger , Bloody well right , Rudy and the title track from Supertramp’s Crime of the century . However , this did not detract from the strength and depth of the evenings set. There were singalongs from the faithful and by the end of play all British reserve had gone and the crowd was standing , cheering and for the final song some even got their brollies out. Yes ,the crowd was middle Britain , but Hodgson is close to 3 score years and ten so the audience was a reflection of his long standing fan base.
Musicians at the top of their game make it look easy, and the band did exactly that. I wonder how many people in the audience realised that the backing keyboard player was Ray Coburn ,or even know who he is , a musician of such standing that he can sell out auditoriums on his own ? Michael Ghegan complete with red shoes, is a talent and moved seamlessly between backing vocals ,saxophone , harmonica, piccolo , clarinet and keyboards .The band was made up by the faultless playing in the rhythm section of David Carpenter on bass and Bryan Head on drums. The main man , in a white suit bounced between keyboards, grand piano , guitar and of course that monstrous piped goliath, the Grand Organ . His voice was in excellent fettle and those high notes were still found yet he still found time to speak to the crowd as friends .He wondered into small talk bites about his youth , how he loves the UK , writing The Logical Song at 19 and how music saved him , he mused “we all have challenges, so let’s forget about them for the next 2 hours , music is my medicine”.
As each song started my brain stirring and most of them popped out from within the hidden depths of my rock and metal infested head . For a few moments I regressed back 40 + years to my youth , such is the power of quality music, and my word , the set was full of them. I wish could train my brain to use this amazing power of memory for more mundane matters in life , it is strange how I cannot remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but can recall lines of songs I thought I had forgotten. That said , I am thankful it is a hard drive full of neurone’s storing such wonders , because they do bring back much joy. Roger Hogdson’s touring days must be numbered so grab those remaining tickets now to see this legend before he calls it a day.
As a PS ,if you also have the opportunity to witness that Grand Organ being played , do so as it is something wonderous in its own right.
Take the long way home
Breakfast in America
Easy does it
Hide in your shell
Along came Mary
Lord is it mine
The Logical Song
Child of vision
Death and a Zoo
If Everyone Was Listening
Don’t leave me now
Give a little bit
It’s raining again
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All photo’s taken on an Iphone… apologies for the quality of the images