Talking Stick Resort
Sunday, January 16
"Are you ready to fall in love tonight?" Air Supply singer-guitarist Graham Russell asked the crowd between songs Sunday night at Talking Stick Resort. It wasn't really a question. It was a declaration: Oh, you will fall in love tonight, bitches. Count on it.
To be honest, I didn't expect such unabashed swagger from Russell (the fair, lanky one) and longtime collaborator/vocalist Russell Hitchcock (the curly-haired, munchkin-ish one). Granted, Air Supply was King Shit of Love Song Mountain back in the early 80s, but that was the 80s, and given the 50-something median age of the audience Sunday night, Russell's promise of universal romantic combustion seemed a bit wishful - no matter how formidable the duo's catalog of blow-dried light-rock hits.
So it was a cheesy line - big deal, right? Romance is built on the willing consumption of cheesy sweet-nothings, and Air Supply shoveled them with gusto at Sunday's sold-out show, performing their familiar hits with enormous energy and conviction. To be sure, their reign as light-rock's preeminent balladeer-cupids isn't finished quite yet.
Backed capably by guitarist Christian Nesmith and a couple of whipper-snapper rhythm musicians - including a Pete Wentz dead-ringer on drums - the Australian duo has actually gotten more charismatic with age. This is especially true of Hitchcock, who just seems so much cooler and looser now than the frizzy, filtered 80s emoter who lives on in low-res YouTube music videos. Embellishing hits like "Even the Nights are Better" and "Lost in Love" with conductor-like hand flourishes, which also served to show off his new, totally-butch arm tattoos, Hitchcock worked the crowd like a cross between Rod Stewart and Barbara Mandrell - all mousse and earring sparkle and impish delight. He's just a great little showman.\
Conversely, Russell seems to be taking his role as humanity's light-rock romantic redeemer more seriously than ever. Midway through the two-hour performance, he pulled up a stool and performed "A Little Bit More" - a tragic ballad that he recently wrote as a wedding gift for a solider and his bride.
"It's a true story, so it resonates more," he stated, before reminding the audience again that it was a true story. And again a third time..
Indeed, it was a poignant story and very touching song. Just very serious. And we'll leave it at that.
Matters lightened up considerably - and awesomely - with Hitchcock's sing-along rendition of "Here I Am," which constituted the highlight of the night. (Full disclosure: I totally killed it during "Understand/The one that you love" part, and I'm pretty sure Hitchcock took note. I know the publicist next to me did.)
This was also around the same time that Hitchcock invited willing members of the mostly-seated crowd to gather in front of the Talking Stick stage, where they stayed for the remainder of the show, adoringly soaking up the next five or six songs. It was hilarious and sweet, and it reminded me of the scene in the Brady Bunch Movie where Davey Jones plays the school dance and all the female faculty types just about wet themselves. Almost exactly like that, actually.
After the one-encore finale - which included a spirited, rocking take on the power ballad "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" and an orgiastic flurry of cymbal crashes and drum-kicks by the Pete Wentz dude - I hustled my wife to Sky Harbor for a weeklong business trip she wasn't looking forward to.
There's no way to tell for sure, but I'm pretty sure she kissed me longer and harder than she would have, sans Air Supply on a Sunday. So Russell was right, in a way. If he and Hitchcock don't actually infect you with love, they do constitute a potent booster-shot.
Last Night: Air Supply at the new Talking Stick Resort event auditorium.
Personal Bias: As a pre-pubescent, once saw my dad sing "Every Woman in the World" to my mother while she was picking his back or something. Good memory.
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The Crowd: Lots of sexogenarians, a few septogenarians, some quadrogenarians and a smattering of trigenarians.
Overheard in the Crowd: "This shit's better than Viagra!" (Not really.)
Random Note Book Dump: Would've paid good money to see the stage-rushers start a mosh-pit.