- On 17 June 2011
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Supertramp impressively perseveres
By Jane Stevenson ,QMI Agency
First posted: Monday, June 13, 2011 2:42:32 EDT AM
And so do fans of the ‘70s British prog-rockers.
Faced with as long a lineup I’ve ever seen at the willcall for the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre’s summer season opener on Sunday night, the diehard ‘trampers eventually made it inside for a surprisingly packed, verging on sold-out concert on a cool, grey evening. (I’m guessing the crowd was around 14,000.)
I only say surprisingly because it’s been nine years since Supertramp’s last album, 2002’s Slow Motion, and several decades since they had any hits - the last one being 1982’s It’s Raining Again with co-writer-co-lead singer Roger Hodgson leaving the group a year later and still touring as a solo artist.
Supertramp’s peak was all the way back in 1979 with Breakfast In America, their best selling album.
Still, group founder and pianist Rick Davies, now 66, who shared songwriting and singing duties with Hodgson, has hung in there and is currently touring with a fine eight-piece band including longtime members John Helliwell on saxophone/woodwinds and drummer Bob Siebenberg and managed to present Hodgson songs in a respectable and faithful way.
I had my doubts given Hodgson’s distinctive falsetto.
But Siebenberg’s son, Jesse, and backup singer Gabe Dixon capably shared lead vocal duties on Hodgson’s material representing some of Supertramp’s biggest hits - the title track from Breakfast in America, Give A Little Bit, It’s Raining Again, Take The Long Way Home, The Logical Song, and Dreamer.
Jesse Siebenberg also proved to be a trooper when his electric piano conked out right in the middle of The Logical Song and crew members brought another one onto the stage mid-song.
You could see him mouth, “I have no idea,” when one of the other band members asked what had happened during the song.
As for Davies, he was a serious and silent performer, who was in good voice and great on the ivories, but let the likeable Helliwell, sipping red wine on stage when he wasn’t playing, do all the talking to the audience.
“We’re very pleased to be back in Toronto,” said Helliwell, who encouraged the crowd to join in whenever possible.
“It’s not like Perry Como or anything like that. We’re older now - we just need a bit of stimulus.”
Supertramp finally hit their stride with the fourth song, Ain’t Nobody but Me, a meatier song than the first three, and Davies really got the audience on his side on the strength of From Now On, Rudy, the jammy, crowd-pleasing Another Man’s Woman, Bloody Well Right (with Helliwell holding a bullhorn with the word “right” on it), Goodbye Stranger and the ultra-strong encore numbers School and Crime Of the Century, the latter featuring some fine guitar work from Carl Verheyen.
Otherwise, the production was relatively low-key with no laser lights or wild videos with only a few filmed sequences shown on a screen otherwise kept mostly hidden behind curtains.
The only real theatrics was the onstage recreation of the band’s Crisis? What Crisis 1975 album cover featuring a guy in a bathing suit seated under a yellow umbrella and reading a copy of NOW (NXNE edition) during Another Man’s Woman.
The audience actually applauded when an opened bottle of Molson Canadian beer perched on his side table was shown in a close-up.