When a band is written about as “equalling the Beatles with seven consecutive top five singles,” “one of Australia’s most successful US exports”, and has been around since 1975, they’ve got a lot to live up to.
With the superb support of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and a swag of hits well-written and refined over years of performing, Air Supply more than fulfilled these expectations.
They’re very down to earth rock stars, with a good sense of humour. Fittingly, early in the set after performing 1985 favourite Just As I Am, lead singer Russell Hitchcock sat on a stool as he said, “I’m old now, so this is hard.” He may be old, but so are most of the fans, and they were loving it. There was a permanent line of devoted middle-aged ladies glued to the edge of the stage throughout the show, with outstretched arms that were rewarded with a quick brush or squeeze to the fingertips from the two stars every now and then. Also, Hitchcock certainly didn’t make it look like singing was hard. His voice is silky smooth, beautifully suited to the epic love songs the pair is famous for. In some of the quieter songs, his voice was truly complemented by the melancholy strings of the MSO. (Unfortunately the orchestra was all but drowned out in a lot of the rockier songs.)
Graham Russell sings a lot less, but also has a fantastic voice – his vocals are more rustic and folky sounding. Together, the two voices provide many perfect harmonies. The pair’s background was meeting on the theatre set of Jesus Christ Superstar, so obviously the vocal quality was destined to be high. Their music has been used in quite a few movie soundtracks as well; including the 80’s goodie Ghostbusters.
Graham Russell also has a talent for talking between songs: he knows how to keep the anticipation alive for the next love song, and feed his fans’ need for lovability. “Are you all ready for some romantic songs?” he asked the audience, which was answered with loving screams that continued on into their performance of Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You.) Shortly after, he mused “Do we have belief in love, faith in love itself?” following it with The Power Of Love. Despite sounding like the voice of God (the choice of words combined with his cordless mike being so loud it boomed all around Hamer Hall) he wasn’t by any means over-serious about it. These guys are the Kings of wholesome love songs, but they’re happy and light-hearted about it. For most people under 50, wholesome translates to daggy Dad music, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re not damn good at it.
Air Supply are still going strong and working on a new album due out next year, so we were treated to a new song called Never. To their credit, the new material doesn’t sound just like the old stuff- they’ve made fresh, original music, yet keeping it true to the style they’re good at and their fans love.
After an intermission, there was a heart felt acoustic number from Graham Russell called A Little Bit More; this was another moment where the orchestra shone. After that, it was back to the hits. The One That You Love and Making Love Out Of Nothing At All were among some of the songs that kept the loyal fans singing, clapping along and crazily excited. It was clear to see that they fuelled the pair’s energy- the relationship between Air Supply and their fans is two way. Russell and Hitchcock are the kind of performers that love and appreciate their fans, and give everything they’ve got in return. They love what they do, and are very good at it. One thing is for sure: some may consider Air Supply’s music just as daggy as Britney, but you’ll never catch them lip-synching!
Air Supply with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra