“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we are going on a journey together…” Graham Russell giving a bit of a preface to an amazing concert, along with his songwriting partner Russell Hitchcock, the duo that comprise Air Supply have “been on tour” now for 39 years, though this is the first time I’d ever seen them live. Playing to a sold out crowd of around 1,300 or so at the Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa in Lake Tahoe, from the vantage point of the front row, eyes on the stage, it felt like they could have been playing to a vast sports arena. Hands down, I would have to say that Air Supply gave me the biggest surprise of the year in terms of my expectations against the actual performance – they were spectacular. Playing over 100 shows a year, unless there was something different about this concert (and I have no reason to believe that there was), these guys know how to put on a stunning show with a variety of music, up tempo and slowed down, and in many cases rocking, and they have a brilliant band backing them up. I cannot stress enough my recommendation to check them out if you get the opportunity – these guys put on a stellar live show.
Who: Air Supply
Venue: Montbleu Theatre
Where: Stateline, Nevada (South Lake Tahoe)
Promoter: Montbleu Resort Presents
When: September 12, 2014
Seating: Section A, Row 102, Seat 1-2 (pre-show meet and greet and soundcheck, seated front row center; also photo pass first three songs)
This show was at the Montbleu Theatre inside of the Monbleu Resort Casino and Spa in South Lake Tahoe (just over the California border at Stateline, Nevada).
The showroom as a very interesting layout, with multi-levels that gradually drop down a bit at a time as you approach the stage from the back of the venue. Seating is varied; there are some booths with tables as well as individuals chairs set at tables of different sizes.
My fiancé and I had seating right against the stage on the floor, and the stage is large in size but relatively low to the floor, so it is quite an experience up front. We were also lucky enough to attend the sound check and meet Graham and Russell earlier in the day, which was really cool – very kind and enthusiastic men; very down to Earth.
This was “an evening with…” style of show, so there was no supporting band, and Air Supply came on just a bit after 9:00.
- Graham Russell (vocals, guitar)
- Russell Hitchcock (vocals)
- Aaron Mclain (lead guitar)
- Jonni Lightfoot (bass)
- Amir Efrat (keyboards)
- Aviv Cohen (drums)
England-born, Australia soft rock duo Air Supply have a number of concert dates all over the United States coming up and going through the end of 2014. Singer-songwriter/guitarist Graham Russell and lead vocalist Russell Hitchcock have been together as a band for 39 years and created a number of pop hits.
They met in 1975 in Sydney while rehearsing for Jesus Christ Superstar. They begin playing night clubs together as a duo after their play performances, and eventually made a two song demo which got them a record deal.
Their first single was made in one day, and it went to #1 on the charts. In their first year, they toured with Rod Stewart in Australia and North America.
Their big break in the United States came from Clive Davis in 1980, who signed them to Arista Records in 1980 after hearing, “Lost in Love”, which was a tremendous sales success, as was the follow-up, “All Out of Love”. They sold tens of millions of copies of records in that first year, and made a permanent imprint on pop culture throughout the 80s.
Air Supply has had continuous success since, with their last album, Mumbo Jumbo, having debuted in 2010.
It’s really quite fascinating that these two guys met up by chance in Australia, and created this fantastic music, adopted by the masses worldwide, starting back in the early 80s. They didn’t have the cutting edge resources and talented producers and songwriters that artists have today… they used their own gifts and grit to do it alone, and found success that has never been duplicated in the same genre and on the same scale.
They opened the night with “Even the Nights Are Better”, one of their more known hits, and the audience was immediately sucked into the performance.
One thing that really stood out for me is how unique Russell Hitchcock’s voice is – it is so immediately identifiable, and after all these years, if you close your eyes, it is as if no time has passed. He sounds amazing, and he still has the range.
Another thing about him is how he moves – glides really – across the stage. There was a tremendous amount of artistry going on with his feet throughout the show. It was mesmerizing, really.
Russell is also very emotional. I could see him getting a little chocked up at times during the performance, feeding off what the audience was giving him. I would have to say that there were some very dedicated fans throughout, and that probably made for a stronger show.
Throughout the concert, Russell was compelled to connect with his fans – sometimes with a look, sometimes with a handshake or fist bump. For “The One That You Love”, he actually made his was around the audience as he sung, interacting with fans.
Much larger in stature (he’s a big guy – I’m six feet tall and you can see him tower over me in the meet and greet photo), Graham was physically more grounded, and while Russell is often scanning the audience to connect with fans, Graham did some of that too, but also gave some serious attention to his guitars. During one song, when there was a break in his playing, I saw him doing some business with his guitar pick, sort of rhythmically, that was kind of fascinating to watch.
Both men were very warm with the crowd and engaging, and making the fans contribute to the show by keeping a beat with clapping, singing the chorus of some songs, prompting people to stand (and most were standing throughout the end of the show).
Their band was very impressive and enthusiastic with their work, and everyone played so well together.
With a lot of keys and synths in many of the songs, Amir Efrat, kept busy throughout, and had a very natural style.
Aviv Cohen set a solid foundation on drums with Jonni Lightfoot on bass backing everyone up.
Aaron Mclain was a true stand out of the night, and was one of the best guitarists I’ve seen in some time. One of those rare musicians that do stuff that your mind can’t quite keep up with, all the while making it look so effortless.
Graham and Russell seem to have real love for their band, and I think it shows in the performances all around.
There was one break in the show (according to Graham, literally a “cup of tea” break for Russell) in which Graham slows things down to a more contemplative pace, and he recited a poem he wrote called, “Softly”. He went on to explain that “in any given audience, there are at least four people, like myself, that love words and poetry…” He said that he has a new book of poetry coming out in a few weeks. Definitely an interesting man, who has more than one outlet for his creativity, and it’s awesome that he is still making new works of art, in a variety of forms.
They opened their two song encore with a surprise – a new dance/electronic song. What? From Air Supply? Not only can they do the love ballads, and the rocking songs… they can do something completely contemporary, fast and electronic. These guys are full of surprises. The song was upbeat and smoldering. I think catchy music just runs through the veins of these two, and really there is no type of music that they couldn’t tackle if it caught their interest.
- Even the Nights Are Better
- Just As I Am
- Every Woman in the World
- Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You)
- Sweet Dreams
- I Can Wait Forever
- Softly (Poem recited by Graham)
- The Vanishing Race
- Two Less Lonely People in the World
- The One That You Love
- Lost in Love
- Making Love Out of Nothing at All
- Desert Sea Sky
- All Out of Love
Below are some photos of Air Supply performing on stage (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo):