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AIR SUPPLY, Jazz Cafe, Camden, London
15 September 2011

Air Supply, photo by Andy Nathan

Over the last few years a mini industry seems to have sprung up around the 'guilty pleasure', typically those pop and soft rock songs from the mid seventies through to the eighties that valued an easy melody over more musically credible movements, whether they be punk, metal, reggae or soul. None fit the description better than Air Supply, the saccharine Australians whose Greatest Hits album must have set new records for the most number of songs with the word 'love' in the title.

However as a lover of all things melodic, a very rare UK show from their main men Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock was worth checking out. Despite the fact they enjoyed a worldwide hit with All Out Of Love and notched up eight top 5 hits in the USA in the early eighties, even the intimate Jazz Cafe venue was far from full. It was also a very international crowd with a notable proportion from the Far East.

My reservations pre-show were two-fold: whether they would focus primarily in their first release in many years, Mumbo Jumbo, and whether it would be mainly an acoustic show - but I needn't have worried on either count.

There was a full, tight band of much younger musicians with guitarist Aaron MacLean particularly impressive, while new material was kept to a minimum - including the slightly dance oriented Sanctuary.

Air Supply, photo by Andy Nathan

Instead a wonderful opening trio of the classic Even The Nights Are Better, Just As I Am - a great slice of AOR by any other name with a fine guitar solo - and Every Woman In The World set the tone for the rest of the evening. Not every song hit the mark, and I approached the overplayed The Power of Love with some trepidation, but was won over by a vocal tour de force from Russell Hitchcock.

The Melbourne native still has a great set of pipes on him, despite some very Bob Catley-esque mannerisms. He also bore a worrying facial resemblance to foul-mouthed football gaffer Joe Kinnear and an unexpected set of tattoos to rank with fellow countryman Bon Scott.

Air Supply, photo by Andy Nathan

Graham Russell, who for all his years in Oz and the States retains the accent of his native Nottingham, occasionally added his own more routine vocals as well as strumming acoustic and occasionally electric guitar but very much acts as the compere for the evening.

After he played a brand new song, Everywhere, that he had just penned, one of the highlights of the evening saw both wandering through the crowd to perform The One That You Love, and they seemed to be loving the adulation as ladies reached out to hold them and people snapped camera phones. Indeed the warmhearted way they connected with their fans throughout was one of the things that made this such an uplifting show.

Air Supply, photo by Andy Nathan

Breakthrough hit Lost in Love had everyone singing along, and Dance with Me kept up the tempo, until the moment I had been waiting for more than any other, Making Love Out Of Nothing At All with its typically grandiose Jim Steinman arrangement, building from piano based beginnings to an overwrought power ballad with Russell giving it the drama it deserved.

On a cramped stage they never even left before the two encores, and as Graham said, there could be no other closer than a sprawling All Out Of Love, complete with drum solo and singalongs.

To be honest as the set wore on the cheese factor increased and the hits were rather padded out (while Sweet Dreams was surprisingly absent), but with the crowd lapping them up joyously it hardly mattered.

If it was a crime to enjoy the feelgood factor generated by this evening, then I plead guilty as charged.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan

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