The suburb of Grafarvogur was quiet the night Roger Hodgson, former leading man of Supertramp, performed at Broadway in Reykjavík. All the middle-aged men and women in southern Iceland had gathered, after all, to listen to the corniest singer of all time – I was genuinely surprised my mother wasn’t there.
Roger Hodgson, the man who penned Breakfast in America and Logical Song, is the guy who made corny cool. Before this tour, though, Hodgson hadn’t performed in 20 years, since he quit Supertramp to raise a family (which is very corny). In addition to 20 years’ downtime, Hodgson had the added obstacle that he was presenting his music solo, with just a piano. For those of you who don’t know Supertramp, it is an overproduced pop band with a unique, cheesy yet wonderfully happy sound. So take that sound away and what is left? I was about to find out.
First, though, I would watch KK. Every time middle-aged people get together to listen to music in Iceland, concert promoters call KK and check if he’s available.
KK walked onstage, played a beautiful song and then a crowd favourite. Then he enlightened us about the origins of blues. He told us Icelandic folk musicians had travelled and taught black men the blues. We Icelanders may have the most blues per capita, but I doubt we invented it. I hoped he would talk more about what Icelanders gave black people because then I could call him KKK. KK started to sing a cappella without a mic the way we did it back in the day. Compliments to him on a brilliant performance.
I was getting quite annoyed by the giggling of middle-aged men when Hodgson walked onstage. He started to play his little piano and I just thought this could get so lame. But his first song was Take the Long Way Home and I started smiling and couldn’t help but sing along. You’d think that 20 years of aging would have deepened Hodgson’s rather high-pitched tone a little; it hadn’t. His voice was beautiful as ever. I got chills and happiness was just flying all around like a bumblebee sucking up honey from all the flowers. Oh how sweet it was sitting there just listening to a terrific songwriter who could sing like a fat lady on fire.
Hodgson wasn’t solo. His partner in crime was called Aaron. He played the clarinet and saxophone beautifully and harmonised well whenever backing vocals were needed. Hodgson addressed the crowd and it was clear he was a performer. He knew just what to say and when to say it. He told us that our only job as a crowd was to enjoy ourselves, which was easy. The Grapevine’s cameraman was taking a lot of pictures, as were the other locals, so Hodgson decided just to walk offstage and pose. Then I guess he told them all to sod off because after that they left.
There was never a dull moment. Every song he played took you on a journey through his most intimate emotional life, but it remained entertaining. He then started with his new material, an expected low point. But there was to be no low point, only highs. He who says “what comes up must come down” has never gone to a Rodger Hodgson concert.
Strike that. There was the crowd.
Why do drunken middle-aged men and women have the power to make you want to drink detergent while hanging in a noose while slitting your wrists with a razor? People kept yelling requests and even asking for songs he didn’t even write. You wouldn’t go to a Pearl Jam concert and ask for a Creed song. Would you? But even this wasn’t enough to rattle me.
Roger Hodgson, who many people thought was a has-been, (or, as was often the case that night, a different person entirely), was performing like a genius or savant if you will. After the show he got a standing ovation and did three encores.