Review: Ex-Supertramp frontman keeps sound alive on 40th anniversary of Breakfast in America

What: Roger Hodgson
Where: Royal Theatre
When: Monday, Nov. 25
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Note: Hodgson performs again Tuesday at the Royal Theatre

There’s something unique about classic rock that keeps the genre forever popular, no matter how many years pass. Roger Hodgson of Supertramp is the perfect litmus test for such a theory. He hasn’t made a new record in 19 years, yet the 69-year-old was greeted with a king’s welcome for his concert on Monday night, the first of two consecutive sold-out stops at the Royal Theatre.

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In the case of Hodgson, it’s no secret as to why his music has aged more favourably than most. His voice has a slightly deeper husk to it these days, but he has retained the upper register that makes him such a unique, easily identifiable artist.

That he sounds almost exactly as he did when he was fronting Supertramp, even though he hasn’t done so fulltime since 1983, is a large part of the appeal.

“We’re back!” Hodgson said minutes into his set, addressing the crowd for the first time after the show-opening Take the Long Way Home.

“I told you we’d be back. You don’t have to twist my arm to come back to a beautiful place like Victoria.”

The California-based performer was chatty during his first Victoria visit since 2016, heaping praise on Canada for supporting Supertramp so heavily during its mid-’70s heyday and playing fast and loose with some of the rowdier, more vocal members of the audience.

Hodgson is touring North America to mark the 40th anniversary of 1979’s Breakfast in America, Supertramp’s most commercially successful album, and that drew a deluge of die-hard fans. The hits that helped the album sell 25 million copies worldwide were in abundance Monday, from the title track to the album closer, Child of Vision.

It was a full-spectrum show, also including hits from his solo career; one of the night’s highlights was a thumping Had a Dream, a solo hit by Hodgson from 1984. His backing band shone here, injecting the up-tempo rocker with two pianos and a sinewy rhythm section.

Hodgson played some impressive guitar on the song, adding to the dynamics highlighted by multi-instrumentalist Michael Ghegan, keyboardist Ray Coburn, drummer Bryan Head and bassist David Carpenter.

Not enough can be said about the quality of his band, which not only reproduced the barrage of Supertramp hits (Fool’s Overture was an epic adventure, to say the least) but did them in astonishing fashion.

Ghegan was a particular treat, playing multiple saxophones and piano, often on the same song.

His handling of the back-up vocal parts by Hodgson’s former bandmate Rick Davies on Dreamer was exceptional.

Hodgson and the group returned after a robust standing ovation for an enthralling encore.

“I hope this has been the best Monday night you’ve had in a while,” Hodgson said, prior to a take on Give a Little Bit that had the audience on its feet.

As far as Mondays are concerned, this was up there, for sure. Those going to see Hodgson and Co. do it all over again Tuesday night are in for a treat.

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