Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Even The Nights Were Better

I couldn't find a good 80's picture of Air Supply with a decent size, so I went with a Sylvia Kristel picture instead. You know how hard it is to find a picture of Kristel with her clothes on? That girl and fabric did not get along.

Entertainment Weekly asked people to 'fess up to their first concerts, as if the first concert should be an embarrassing thing. My first concert was a sold out show, in the middle of a hot summer night, with laser lights that spun symbols over the crowd. It was at the incredible Sleep Train, um, back then Concord Pavilion. The band I saw-three consecutive Platinum albums. The concert: Air Supply.

Air Supply. So named because they were like a breath of fresh air to Australians weary of AC/DC knock off units. Led by guitarist / singer / main songwriter Graham Russell and frizzy haired mega high voiced singer Russell Hitchcock, they brought their soft cushy Adult Contemporary styling to bear on all our California asses. And yet I feel I need to justify this, what self respecting rocker would admit to seeing this group?

I was a fan of Air Supply, they were in a lot of ways my starter band. When I started listening to music with the year end Top 100 songs of 1982 countdown on the radio, Air Supply registered a few big hits including the mesmerizing "Sweet Dreams". Their hit "Lost In Love" was featured in the movie Private Lessons aka the movie teenage boys watched to get a peek at Sylvia freakin' Kristel, a ringing endorsement if there was one. And their HBO special live concert showed they could modestly rock out on occasion (and I dubbed the show off videotape onto audiotape so I could jam on my walkman). I'm a guy who can't remember lyrics to most of my favorite songs, but Air Supply - I still know most of the lyrics to their big hits. The impossibly high sustained singing notes! Those plush arrangements! That giant afro! Forget the criticism that they were lightweight, wussy, oversensitive whiny boys because it's a given. They had more sap than all the trees on Endor. But for a time, they were the best there was at it and could whup Christopher Cross' butt any day (because there were two of them).

So I settled in my seat on the sweaty Summer twilight as Air Supply took the stage and started blastin'. I'm pretty sure they kicked off with "Can't Get Excited", a song I knew well from my trusty Maxell 90 minute tape of their first two albums recorded off my best friend's parent's records. My first exposure to loud amplified music left my ears ringing (they're still that bad?). They were tight and professional, well rehearsed, not that I was thinking any of this at the time I just thought they sounded just like the tape. They ran through all their big smashes (and it turned out to be a good point to catch them, because other than "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" a few months later they were all out of Top 10 hits). "All Out Of Love" was one of their best songs and was a definite highlight here. "Even The Nights Are Better", "Here I Am", "Every Woman In The World", "The One That You Love"...the hits rolled on and on.

The things that stood out to me: first, the band had changed. They sold a tour program (which I just realized I don't have anymore) which named the band members with photographs. When I looked at the stage, other than the two Russells, the keyboardist and the drummer the band had changed (it was noticeable because I was looking for the Asian guy that was in the band to rep-re-sent. Yo! What happened to the Asian guy?). Second, the lead singing Russell milked the high notes in every song. When the song would get to the part where he was going for that stratospherically high note that most guys would need to ram their balls in a meat grinder to hit, the band would stop playing. Then the lead singing Russell would wave the audience to applaud and when he thought he had enough cheering, he would hit the note and the band would continue playing. It was OK the first couple of times, but did it have to be every high note (I will say this, he really could hit and sustain those notes just like the record)? Third, interestingly it was the lesser hits that grabbed my attention the most. "Chances", "Young Love", "Now and Forever" (aka the theme song to a crappy Cheryl Ladd movie) and "Two Less Lonely People In The World" I remember better than the big hit performances. Except for one hit that is...

"Sweet Dreams." That amazing missing link between plastic red rose romanticism and Pink Floyd, performed in it's long version glory. The song had that Science Fiction atmosphere and nocturnal quality that I thought was the shit. Close your eyes, I wanna see you tonight in my Sweeeet Dreaaamms. Oooh yeah , that was the stuff bro.

When I left that Pavilion with the Air Supply spinning above in laser lights, I was a changed person. I entered the show as a boy, I left as a boy who had seen Air Supply. Other people can claim their first concerts were bands like Metallica, The Clash or something like that. I can't, yet I have no remorse, no regrets. I had a great time seeing my first concert show. And now, direct by satellite, here's Air Supply all the way back from '83!


Arsenette said...

I don't have to fess up.. never saw them in concert.. I did record their songs from the radio though I've never owned an album.. We used to say "hey this is the guy that sings with a vice on his nuts..".. because no way in hell can anyone sing that high unless they were in dire pain..

Mr. Mike said...

Vice on his nuts is pretty accurate, his voice is both impressive and scary. Though for me the true voice of singing through pain is Michael Bolton. He sounds very herniated.

Arsenette said...

Hubby said Air Supply stands for Hellium.. LOL and he went off on Michael Bolton for about half hour.. LOL!! Agreed on both accounts :)