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Reviewed by Jeff Giles
hen Roger Hodgson quit Supertramp 25 years ago, he left behind one of the biggest bands in rock and roll for what was supposed to be a wildly successful solo career. Though the group was at least nominally a creative partnership with keyboardist/vocalist Rick Davies, it was Hodgson’s voice that graced many of Supertramp’s biggest hits. That’s his keening tenor you hear on such classic rock mainstays as “The Logical Song,” “Breakfast in America,” and “Give a Little Bit.” A gifted multi-instrumentalist, Hodgson was, at least on paper, more than up to the task of stepping out of his former band’s shadow.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. After notching a couple of medium-sized hits from his debut, 1984’s In the Eye of the Storm, Hodgson suffered a steep drop in his commercial fortunes; to date, his last album for an American major label remains 1987’s Hai Hai. (It bears mentioning that Supertramp’s fall from grace was equally swift, and roughly mirrors Hodgson’s own.) Countless factors were at play in Hodgson’s commercial drift, too many to go into here. The point is, the gray-streaked singer/songwriter who headlines Take the Long Way Home has been exiled to the rock fringes for years – but it could have been very different.
If this bothers Hodgson, he doesn’t let it show on this concert video, filmed at the Place des Arts in Montreal last year. A quarter of a century later, he still seems every bit the beatific flower child that his songs with Supertramp suggested he was, spending much of the show gazing at the (deliriously appreciative) crowd like an overjoyed, slightly stoned grandfather – an impression deepened by the billowing white peasant blouse he’s wearing.
But if he gives the appearance of a patchouli ‘n’ brownies-loving senior citizen, Hodgson is nothing but business when it comes to the music – and time seems to have had no impact whatsoever on his singing voice, something he takes advantage of on several occasions. Rather than adjusting his songs’ arrangements or fobbing off the tough parts on the audience, Hodgson gamely nails the high notes – even the really high ones, like the girl-on-fire screech at the end of “The Logical Song.” Given the absence of a band – he’s joined on stage only by one-man horn section and background vocalist Aaron MacDonald – this would be a daring tightrope walk even if Hodgson had attempted it a couple decades ago.
The set is predictably heavy on old hits and album cuts – counting both appearances of “Give a Little Bit,” Supertramp numbers make up 13 of the evening’s 17 performances. Given how sporadically Hodgson has recorded since leaving the group, it’s hard to imagine fans griping too much about the backward focus, particularly given his willingness to break out rarely-played songs such as “Sister Moonshine” and “Don’t Leave Me Now.” It would have been nice to hear more from Hodgson’s superb 2000 release, Open the Door, but he clearly intended to provide an overview here, and on that front, he succeeded.
The DVD is literally stuffed with extras – in addition to the show, which was filmed with 10 cameras and is presented here in 5.1 surround – viewers are treated to a pair of interviews, a backstage segment, interviews with fans, sound check footage, bonus tracks, and clips of Hodgson performing with an orchestra. Given that Eagle has priced Take the Long Way Home under $15, it’s hard to imagine how consumers could get much more bang for their buck here. If you were a fan of Hodgson’s work during his commercial heyday, or have followed his solo career, you have no reason not to buy this.