Graham Russell performs in Air Supply at MGM National Harbor on June 3, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)
I must start this review with a special appreciation for guitarist Graham Russell of Air Supply.
During Air Supply concerts, such as a recent sold-out appearance at MGM National Harbor, Graham holds centerstage while the rest of the band takes a break in the middle of the show, and he recites a poem. This time, he recited “Am I” in a clear but hushed stage whisper. It was a wonderfully theatric moment, and the audience held its collective breath as he dramatically passed through the poem of his own composition.
Graham then presented a tongue-in-cheek ode to “The Perfect Lover,” which is in fact his guitar, and sang a song of that name. The covid-era composition, recorded by Graham and some bandmates as G and the Cool Cucumbers, flowed smoothly throughout the auditorium.
Our appreciation of the tall and lean guitarist, who is critically underrated, is not meant to detract from his equally magnetic bandmate, the vocalist Russell Hitchcock, who also was in fine form at MGM National Harbor on June 3. But Graham’s comprehensive and tender grasp of guitar mechanics, his effortless rhythmic synchronizing with the band’s excellent drummer, and his extraordinary compositions leave us wondering why he doesn’t more frequently appear on the lists of top classic rock guitarists in the world.
Graham and Russell began this performance in the Lost in Love Experience Tour, celebrating more than 45 years of Air Supply, with “Sweet Dreams,” their 1982 Top 5 hit, offering both men an opportunity to sing. And while Russell’s powerful tenor was certainly a defining feature of the performance, Graham sounded quite remarkable as well!
Watch the official music video for “Sweet Dreams” by Air Supply on YouTube:
Soon after Graham’s midshow spotlight, Russell returned to the stage and the two shared the tale of how they met in Australia as cast members of Jesus Christ Superstar. Russell and Graham recognized each other’s talents immediately and began collaborating. The admiration the two men shared for each other from those early days was evident in abundance still today, and their shared confidence fueled their brotherly bond and in turn their penchant for showstopping moments.
After the recap, Russell and Graham took seats for a moving performance of “Two Less Lonely People in the World,” another USA chart success in 1983 and also a calmer moment for the often more theatric duo. As the men sang, the audience sang along with them, bonding in the warm embrace of the lyrics. Air Supply’s skilled songsmiths sang directly to the crowd, who sang back with enthusiasm.
Of course, when you say that almost everyone inside The Theater at MGM National Harbor knew every word to every line of each Air Supply song, you at the very least can point to the example of “The One That You Love,” the USA No. 1 singalong anthem dating from 1981. You’ll never find a roomful of people more eager to sing to a tune than a gathering of Air Supply fans eager to sing “The One That You Love,” and the highly anticipated group sing was glorious, cathartic and very much a lot of fun.
Watch a 1981 performance of “The One That You Love” by Air Supply for TopPop on YouTube:
At the close of their set, Air Supply played “Making Love Out of Nothing at All,” one of the greatest pop torch songs in modern music. The sneaky 1983 power ballad began earnestly enough but soon built into the over-the-top hallmarks of its famed songwriter, Jim Steinman. Well, it may be a Steinman composition, but its undoubtedly an Air Supply tune, as no one could deliver those declarative, commanding lyrical turns of phrase like Russell, and no one could construct a foundation for the song’s musical explosion like Graham.
Those last tunes lingered in our heads as we headed home for the evening — a testament indeed to the timeless talent and musical prowess of two men who show no reason to slow down any time soon.
Here are some photos of Air Supply performing at MGM National Harbor on June 3, 2022. All pictures copyright of Parklife DC!