After forty-four years on the road, Air Supply namely Graham Russell (vocals/guitar) and Russell Hitchcock (vocals) continue to tour and spread love and romance wherever they go. Accompanied by a full orchestra led by Sarah Grace Williams and a solid band of musicians, the icons of soft rock did not show any signs of stopping with a heartwarming show at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland, NZ.
The Bruce Mason Centre was packed with Airheads that mainly belonged to a particular age group but yet diverse in nationalities. Kiwis, Malaysians, Filipinos, Chinese were all part of the audience and it only goes to show that the music of Air Supply transcends borders, gender and creed.
The show started on a strong note with Sweet Dreams, one of the singles from Air Supply's most successful album, The One That You Love (1981). Both Russell and Hitchcock came on stage at the same time after the band warmed up with an intro to the song.
Russell Hitchcock was dressed in a burgundy coloured jacket, white shirt and dark trousers. Russell Graham, on the other hand, decided to rock the black wardrobe with a stylish dark pinstripe jacket over a black satin shirt and slim-cut pants. Both of them looked suave and dashing in their own different way, clearly prepared to charm and serenade each and every member of the audience. And they did... effortlessly.
Russell Hitchcock, the former picnic basket salesman and office worker, understands the language of love. He joked about the number of alimony cheques he had written over the years but humour aside, Hitchcock's voice was wondrous... almost more honeyed over time and his control was flawless... from whispered verses to soaring choruses, Russell Hitchcock will win your heart.
Graham Russell the songwriter was full of vitality and vigour... nimble on his feet, jumping to the beat of the rockier songs and even shaking his tush for the front-row at one point. He often starts off the song for Hitchcock to take off. Fleeting traces of sorrow and melancholy could be heard in his starting part of Goodbye written by David Foster and Linda Thompson and a massive hit in Asia during the early 90s. After reciting a poem called Impossible (as he often does during each show), Graham shared a new song called Son of a Father which was inspired from his conversation with a total stranger who had lost his father at the moment of birth. A tragic story that was turned into hope for the future.
The friendship of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock is worthy of celebration and respect. The two remain the best of friends over forty years of making music together and never had a single argument. Graham writes the songs and Russell sings them - it's that simple. The little gestures of brotherhood and camaraderie both men showed each other, holding hands briefly at the end of Here I Am was endearing and inspiring.
The band supporting Graham and Russell must also be mentioned mainly because the young musicians were highly talented and visibly enjoyed performing all the songs. The most prominent member was Aaron Mclain who performed all the lead guitar solos with remarkable precision and also the Music Director of the group. Doug Gild was on his feet, often jumping with his bass driving home each song. Mirko Tessandori gave generous helpings of sparkling piano melodies and sweeping synth-scapes. Last but not least, Aviv Cohen the drummer controlled tension and drama with fleeting touches on the snare, booming tom-toms and crashing cymbals... timed perfectly with the emotional releases and peaks of each song.
The orchestra under the direction of Sarah Grace Williams added some flair and texture to the songs, particularly Chances, Love and Other Bruises, Two Less Lonely People In The World and Without You. Unfortunately, it was often hard to hear the strings when the drums and keyboards came to life.
The stage lighting during the show was just right and not overbearing. The orchestra was subtly illuminated in the back of the stage. The back was kept bare with occasional sparkles or patterns projected on the screen. Spots on the stage floor during Chances lit by thin beams of light was a nice touch. Just the edges of Russell's silhouette was subtly lit up by red light during the emotional Love and Other Bruises and the convergence of warm lights during Making Love Out Of Nothing At All before the stage was filled with pillars of rainbow streams and spots was spectacular. Uber praise to the band's Lighting Director, Troy Stubby.
Other notable highlights during the 2 hours plus concert included Now and Forever followed by Two Less Lonely People In The World sang by Graham and Russell sitting side-by-side, reminiscing of their past days singing in cafes together... an ode to their everlasting friendship and partnership. The timeless classic Making Love Out Of Nothing At All where the band let loose with Mclain performing a solo on centre-stage with the audience singing the love song at the top of their voice. All Out Of Love led by Graham and accentuated by Russell with exceptional vocal harmonies that match each other perfectly.
The last time I saw Air Supply was almost thirty years ago... at a time when Walkmans and mix-tapes were in. Today, we live in different times but it is true artists like Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock who remind an old and new generation that no matter when or how long ago... love survives and can help shape what is to come.