Supertramp to play Concert of the Day on Sunday at Rexall

So long, U2. Thanks for the “concert of the decade.”

Now it’s time for the next concert of the decade: Supertramp at Rexall Place on Sunday night (June 5).

We need another decade. Tell you what: Let’s consider 2011 up to U2 in Edmonton on June 1 the ‘10s, and everything here and after as the – what do we call it – the “Teens.” That doesn’t sound right. It’s funny how we’re still stumbling over what to call decades in the new millennium. What was the decade from 2000 to 2009? Neither the “double-naughts” nor the more appropriate “oh-ohs” caught on at all. The “two thousands” doesn’t cut it. No one is able to refer to 2007 as “ought seven” without snickering. Will 2020 usher in the “new 20s?” What about the “new 70s?”

The old ‘70s is plenty – and we’re back to Supertramp.

Every generation likes to imagine the music that was relevant when they were teenagers is the best music in the world, that it will remain relevant with every other generation for all time. U2 managed to bridge the age gap to a certain extent by, as Bono put it, “fucking up the mainstream” – which, since U2 IS the mainstream, leaves you wondering what his fucking up target really is. The band quickly rose to a global superstar level and stayed there. It really was a good show, wasn’t it?

Supertramp was a bigger global sensation for a shorter period of time for a narrower age demographic. Crime of the Century came out in 1974, was the album of the decade. It actually comes close to being the perfect album – at least according to some baby boomers, who seem unable to grasp the notion that younger people might not be into the same music they are, or at least hope their tastes will mature. Generation X is largely immune to the Supertramp effect, having come of age well after the band drifted into oblivion. For them, the album of their decade was Doolittle by the Pixies.

Opinion on U2 is divided and strong: Those who love U2 and those who hate those who love U2. There is little middle ground. Supertramp suffers from no such polarization. Some might complain the band didn’t exactly pay its dues on the indie rock scene. They were financed from the start by a millionaire friend of Rick Davies, who placed a “musicians wanted” ad that was answered by Roger Hodgson. The rest is musical history – songs that fit on a mixtape with CCR or with Steely Dan, with Prince or Van Halen, songs that appeal to heartland rock fans, art rock geeks, jazz heads and enthusiasts of occasional easy listening fare, the latter far outnumbering any of the former. The people who buy one record a year represents the force that creates No. 1 records when they all buy the same record at the same time – as they did with Crime of the Century. EVERYBODY who’s pushing 50 from either side owned a copy of Crime of the Century. Supertramp managed to be all things to all people and still come up with a startlingly original sound that hasn’t been matched since. It’s those distinctive hammering Wurlitzer keyboards, the intricate yet elegant arrangements, the soaring vocals, the songs about school and about having a bloody right to say you’re bloody well right.

There are two Supertramps, of course. The only reason Supertramp gets to play the local hockey arena while former singer Rodger Hodsgon is stuck out in the boondocks (he was just at the River Cree Casino on March 5) is because founding member Rick Davies owns the Supertramp name. Davies also got the other guys who were there when Supertramp was big – horn player John Helliwell and drummer Bob Siebenberg remain – but had to hire someone who sings like Hodgson. The real Hodgson, meanwhile, had to hire guys who play like the old Supertramp. They both play many of the same songs (each wrote their own while in Supertramp) and both inflict new material on their audiences. And while they take the occasion swipe at each other in interviews, neither has made it clear why they haven’t managed a real reunion.

As it is with a marriage, maybe only the people inside the rock band really know what’s going on inside the rock band. The fans can only watch and guess.