Roger Hodgson is so out of step with the spiralling unpleasantness and impersonality of 21st century life that it’s almost impossible not to like him. “Gosh, I’m emotional,” confesses the 66-year-old former Supertramp frontman once a welcoming ovation subsides. “I haven’t been back in my home country for several years, and yet here I am on this iconic stage which I’ve dreamt of since childhood.”
For more than two hours Hodgson holds us spellbound, as he switches from acoustic guitar to keyboard, grand piano and even a set of electric drum pads. Chattering away, taking pre-planned requests and sporting a crisp white evening jacket and waistcoat that suggest an afternoon spent boating on the Cam, Hodgson exudes heart-warming naiveté. “Shall we leave our problems outside [the hall] for the next couple of hours?” he suggests. “Let’s just have fun and celebrate life.”
Prefacing Lord Is It Mine from Breakfast In America, Roger theorises: “Some of these songs are like prayers,” and he’s quite right; they do betray whimsical, hymn-like qualities. Some such as Hide In Your Shell reveal themes of teenage isolation, others like the unrecorded The Awakening revel in the powers of forgiveness. “Love is the most important thing in life,” he adds. And if that message seems slightly twee, well… it would appear that quite a few folks disagree. Let’s not forget that Hodgson is here at the Palladium to soak up the spillage of disappointed fans unable to obtain tickets for the following day’s appointment at the Royal Albert Hall.
In terms of musical content, the show is exquisitely presented; tonight some extra songs are played to please visitors from Chile, Norway, Germany and France among other nations. A full electric band includes Aaron Macdonald, a Canadian multi-instrumentalist who recreates the fruity saxophone parts of John Helliwell. On the downside, Crime Of The Century’s Bloody Well Right is an annoying omission from a setlist delivered in two parts, though all of the other staples such as Take The Long Way Home, Dreamer, Breakfast In America, The Logical Song, A Soapbox Opera, Even In The Quietest Moments and Give A Little Bit are present and correct, sung in a voice that’s still slightly nasal yet undeniably moreish, its charisma and power undiminished and unmistakable.
Some may wrongly presume Hodgson to be an American, though thanks to the chiming of Big Ben, a stirring Churchill speech and a segment from Jerusalem the set-closing epic Fool’s Overture really couldn’t be any more English if it tried. But it’s the choice of solo tracks and ’Tramp deep cuts that really make the night, Death And A Zoo from the underrated 2000 opus Open The Door wielding chunky, funky power. However, the ultimate ‘Aw, bless’ moment comes when Hodgson dedicates Lovers In The Wind to a couple celebrating their 30th anniversary.
“Sir, your wife Christine says that you never surprise her,” he announces with a twinkle in his eye. “Christine, this is your surprise.”