Up-close and personal with Graham Russell & Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply

Just to think what I might have missed…looking back how did I exist…I dreamed, still I never thought I’d come this far…but miracles come true…I know ‘cause here we are…” (an excerpt from Air Supply’s Two Less Lonely People In The World).
The phenomenal tandem of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock, collectively of the popular soft-rock band Air Supply, has incredibly journeyed this far…celebrating their 40th year in the recording industry after they first met on May 12, 1975. It was during the maiden rehearsal of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Melbourne, Australia where they’re both mere members of the chorus. Induced with common interests (the Beatles and of course, singing) the duo easily bonded, embraced music together, captured the hearts of millions, and journeyed hand in hand ‘til they attained such enviable status way further beyond their dreams.
Air Supply’s historic 40th Anniversary World Tour, which commenced in Kuala Lumpur last January 20, 2015, has a long line-up of scheduled performances one of which was last Saturday, June 13, at the Town Hall, the 94-year old suffragists-founded landmark along 43rd Street in Times Square.
Produced by San Fernando, Pampanga-bred-now-New York-based entrepreneur-photographer John Gadia, more popularly known as Lil John of DJ Filipino Events, the unprecedented success of the recently concluded Air Supply concert was a fitting follow-up to his equally successful initial production venture that featured David Pomeranz. “It was physically exhilarating and mentally exhausting but worth all the troubles,” Lil John briefly commented. “Even if I produce only once a year, I made sure I offer quality entertainment.”
Through Lil John’s invitation, Asian Journal editor Momar G. Visaya, Elton Lugay of Inquirer.Net and I were ushered into a cozy basement room where the singing duo were comfortably stationed while awaiting showtime. Graham Russell, the guitarist and songwriter-poet from Nottinghamshire, England, was clad in a red body-hugging tank-top while Russell Charles Hitchcock, the lead singer from Melbourne, Australia, donned a black cotton tee, warmly welcomed us as they identified themselves.
My anticipated enthusiasm of meeting the popular tandem finally paid off when we were individually introduced but inevitably intimidated by their larger-than-life celebrity stature. Star struck…? Way beyond from just being one. The feeling was so surreal!  Frenziedly overwhelming!
It was Momar who broke the ice with his query regarding their expectations about the show and up-coming schedules in connection with the celebration of their 40th anniversary tour.
“We’re just trying to enjoy the show by giving our fans the songs they have identified us with through the years… actually, we’re more than excited,” said 66-year-old Russell Charles Hitchcock.
At that instant, I had slowly mustered enough audacity and threw my first question: “Having had performed worldwide, where was the best and biggest crowd you’ve ever encountered?”
Towering Graham Russell, 65, responded to the inquiry: “All our audience had been great. They have the full mastery of almost all our songs.” Then he turned staid with an air of glee and blurted: “But everywhere we perform, whether in the Middle East, North America, Europe…just anywhere we had concerts, there were noticeably a large contingent of Filipinos in the crowd. They’re very supportive of our music.”
Graham Russell’s positive pronouncement sensibly injected that dose of guts for me to keep going. “How many songs are lined-up in tonight’s repertoire?”
“We prepared a mix of everything…but most from the Ultimate Air Supply album which we remastered and released in 2003 and a cut from an album we recorded in Hong-Kong…about 15 or 16, the most,” Silver-haired Russell Hitchcock responded.
Hitchcock must be referring to “Desert Sea Sky,” which hit # 43 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart after being constantly played in discos.
“Desert Sea Sky is exciting because it’s creating a new pathway for us. Because of this, we are compared to a massive tree with roots deep in the ground…and now there’s another branch coming out of the trunk,” Hitchcock added.
The duo never exhibited any sign of pressure or anxiety. The show was coming up in a matter of minutes but Graham and Russell remained cool and unperturbed. Last Saturday’s concert could just be one of those regular routines for them.
The brief encounter with the 2013 ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall of Fame awardee profoundly provided us an insight of how the duo remained unassuming and grounded despite enjoying immense stardom. A photo-op ensued that capped the noteworthy interview.
Outside, Air Supply fans and enthusiasts started to arrive as early as 5 PM as they gradually occupied the theater’s front space and sidewalk and that by around 7:30 all theater doors were opened.
The stage was equipped with specially designed laser beams, ERS (Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlight), and stroboscopic lights that alternately projected in regulated directions emitting colored rays predominantly of fuchsia, aqua, gold, and silvery hues. The profuse backlights gave depth and set the mood while simultaneously separating the performers from the background.
By 8:00, up-coming Fil-Am model-singer Gail Banawis glamorously mounted the stage voluptuously garbed in a shimmering silver body-hugging gown as she was met with thunderous applause. The stunning curtain raiser did a medley of love songs where the audience joined her when she belted out Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” The statuesque singer, who gained enormous recognition when she joined the all-male Philippine chorale that rendered the national anthem during Pacquiao’s latest Vegas ring match versus Mayweather, dished out Liza Minnelli’s “New York, New York” for her finale number.
An epigrammatic break followed for the prop-men’s final stage set-up and sound check. Not long afterwards, pandemonium broke loose upon the initial entry of the legendary tandem while they crooned their first number, “Sweet Dreams.” The applause was animated… the whistling and yelling were deafening… such boisterous reverberations that proffered the performing duo their much needed stimulation to be driven and inspiringly deliver.
The duo energetically executed a full repertoire of their most requested top chart-busters like; “Even The Nights Are Better,” “Just As I Am,” Every Woman In The World,” Just When I Thought I Was Over You,” “Do It Again,” “Goodbye,” “I Can Wait Forever,” “Two Less Lonely People In The World,” “Here I Am,” “Lost In Love,” Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” “Desert Sea Sky,” and “I’m All Out Of Love,” for their finale number.
During the break Graham Russell recited “Spring,” one of his published poems compiled in his book of poetry which was on sale at the lobby, then rendered his freshly composed song with a plaintive melody and a heartening message.
As if to test the singing capability of the audience, the duo would occasionally aim the microphone at them in some portions of the songs. Not to be caught unguarded, the crowd readily proved their mastery of the songs to the last note.
The trying days didn’t reflect on their performance although their physicality showed the remnants of the long years they have been hogging the limelight. But impressively their vocal power has effectively defied the generations that had been. Hitchcock’s vocal capacity hasn’t diminished its range and pitch. With shut eyes, his live performance was like listening to the radio or from a CD player. He was that versatile!
The full-to-the-rafters venue, dominated mostly by Filipino-Americans, couldn’t just get enough of Air Supply and their songs…the very music they grew up with back home. If there were exceedingly voluble and vociferous sounds heard after every song number those, without any doubt, were by the Filipino-Americans. In some segments the crowd couldn’t even resist from dancing.
Normally, one would prefer to listen to love songs and ballads with acoustic accompaniment only but Graham and Russell opted for heavily orchestrated band and yes, it was effectual. The very essence of the music was perfectly achieved…and even delivered with contagious pulsation.
After forty years of togetherness, Graham and Russell continuously make music and haven’t loss their enthusiasm to entertain. “It may sound abnormal but, believe it or not, we’ve never engaged in a serious squabble or reached a point when we would totally disagree,” I recalled Graham openly said to justify their 40 years of partnership.
Supplementary facts and verity about Air Supply
Whether coincidental or destiny, the music wizards are both Gemini-born: Graham Russell was born on June 11, 1950 while Russell Hitchcock was born on June 15, 1949…just a year apart.
That despite the international acknowledgment and unprecedented popularity accorded to Air Supply the singing duo never forget their humble beginnings. They considered rocker Rod Stewart their American Godfather since it was the Stewart who convinced them to promote their music in the USA, particularly in Los Angeles, after they supported him in his Australian concert tours back in 1977.
That despite their music gaining commercial success, Graham Russell candidly confessed, they were still penniless to the extent of checking on the backs of hotel sofas for change so that they could at least buy bread to make toast.
That their first recordings suffered rejections but their first single released in November 1976, “Love and Other Bruises,” became # 6 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart by January 1977.
That their debut album was launched in December 1977 and reached # 17 on the KMR Albums Chart and achieved gold.
That in the span of forty years Air Supply has released 25 albums: 17 of which were studio recorded and the rest were either recorded live, re-mastered or compilations of their hits.
That in 1981, Air Supply released “One That You Love” (produced by Graham Russell, David Foster, and Harry Maslin) which the title track went # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Incidentally, the album also featured two more top hits: “Here I Am” (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) and “Sweet Dreams.”
That they recorded their 10th studio album in 1987… Air Supply, The Christmas Album.
That during that time, Russell Hitchcock went solo and released his self-titled album in 1988 but didn’t fare well however his “Swear To Your Heart” was used as the soundtrack for “Arachnophobia” and received significant airplay.
That on August 21, 1989, the duo returned to the recording studio for “The Earth Is…” which was released in 1991.
That in 2005 they visited Havana, Cuba for a two-day concert— the first foreign band invited to perform in the country. Unfortunately, Hurricane Dennis hit Cuba on the day of the first performance (July 7) but there was still a heavy turnout (175,000).  However, they failed to do the second show for the absence of power. The duo opted to entertain their aggravated fans, who stayed in the same hotel where they were billeted, acoustically with candles.
That in June 12, 2008 they performed at the Subic Convention Center in Zambales, Philippines and had visited the islands thrice.
That in May of 2010 they released “Mumbo Jumbo,” the duo’s first studio recording in 8 years. It was recorded at Graham’s home studio near Park City, Utah.
That in October 2012, Air Supply was honored by the Ride of Fame where a double-decker tour bus was dedicated to them and now roams the streets of New York City.
For those who missed the show and wanted to catch Air Supply in their other up-coming east coast performances, here are their schedules: August 7 @ the Waterfront Ballroom, King of Prussia, Philadelphia, on August 8 @ the NYCB Theater in Westbury, New York, and on October 23 in Englewood, New Jersey.
“You would never ask me why…my heart is so disguised…I just can’t live a lie anymore…
I would rather hurt myself…Than to ever make you cry…There’s nothing left to try… Though it’s gonna hurt us both…There’s no other way than to say, goodbye…” From the 1981 hit “Goodbye” by Air Supply
Photo credits: RJ Ensalada
For comments and suggestions, please email to: gemini0646@yahoo.com or royalty060746@yahoo.com


The Filipino-American Community Newspaper. Your News. Your Community. Your Journal. Since 1991.

Copyright © 1991-2022 Asian Journal Media Group. All Rights Reserved.