Live Review: Air Supply @ The Birchmere — 8/6/21

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Russell Hitchcock fronts Air Supply at The Birchmere on Aug. 6, 2021. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

Multi-platinum romantic rockers Air Supply delighted a sold-out crowd at The Birchmere recently, enchanting an audience at a much smaller venue than the core duo of Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell have become accustomed to playing.

The gentlemen swashbucklers responded well to the intimate setting, dialing up the charm and churning out the hits as men and women alike sang along, laughing and crying, all the while transfixed by the veteran performers.

Air Supply are best known in the United States for a string of hit albums from 1980 to 1985, all radio staples on the FM airwaves still. On Aug. 6, Russell and Graham drew heavily from those records — Lost in Love (1980), The One That You Love (1981), Now and Forever (1982), and Air Supply (1985) — and beyond for a powerful display of talent and charisma.

At one point, the gents commented it had been 22 years since they last performed at The Birchmere, although they have certainly been in the DC area more often than that, last appearing just a few miles away at MGM National Harbor only two years ago. By request of the band, patrons wore masks in common areas to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and the politely rowdy audience happily complied, removing them to drink and sing while seated throughout the evening.

From the beginning of the show, Graham swayed with his guitar to stage right and Russell tended to sing from stage left. So, one of the most powerful moments in the show came in the latter half of the show when the two showmen sat on stools next to each other for the soaring “Two less Lonely People in the World.”

Watch Air Supply perform “Two Less Lonely People in the World” in Hong Kong on YouTube:

Just prior to that song, Graham gave the audience a welcome surprise while Russell took a break, announcing that he and several members of the backing band had formed a side project, called G and the Jolly Cucumbers, and recorded an album during pandemic lockdown in recent months. From that project, the trio performed “The Perfect Lover,” an ode to Graham’s guitar. Indeed, Graham proudly displayed his current guitar, a gift from Russell that marked the duo’s 40th anniversary as Air Supply. The Jolly Cucumbers trio were tight — Mirko Tessandori on piano and Doug Gild on bass also shined brightly during the Air Supply classics, which undoubtedly were first released when both were still young boys.

As ever, the show ended in a dizzying cascade of Air Supply’s best tunes — with “All Out of Love” capping the night. Giddy, bonded in thought and spirit, both band and audience sang with full hearts through a symphonic rendition of the band’s well-loved hit.

As all fans know, English Graham met Aussie Russell in 1975 when both joined the chorus of Jesus Christ Superstar in Australia. The two clicked immediately, performing every year together since. (They even slipped in a few live concerts before COVID-19 shut down the world in early 2020.) In those early days, they would perform anywhere they could, Russell told the audience on Friday, including pizza parlors, coffee bars, etc. — just for the thrill of the performance.

And that brings me to one of the most remarkable things about Air Supply, and one of the reasons they endure: Russell and Graham have nothing but overwhelming gratitude for the opportunity to perform and an unabashed love for their audience. Everyone at The Birchmere couldn’t help but leave the show at the end on an elated wave generated by that gratitude, a natural high that comes very much from the heart.

Setlist:
Sweet Dreams
Even the Nights
Just As I Am
Every Woman
Here I Am
Chances
Goodbye
I Adore You
The Perfect Lover
Two Less Lonely People in the World
The One That You Love
Lost in Love
Making Love Out of Nothing at All
Without You (Badfinger cover)
All Out of Love

Here are some photos of Air Supply performing at The Birchmere on Friday, Aug. 6. All photos by Mickey McCarter.

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