Sail Rock 2013 (Concert Review)

Sail Rock Tour – Fraze Pavilion – Kettering, OH (8/9/13) (concert review)

Seven bands make for a hit-filled trip down memory lane

There was a time, right before the dawn of MTV, when popular music was dominated by breezy, harmony-filled soft rock.  In celebration of the genre, Sail Rock 2013 rolled into Fraze Pavilion featuring Christopher Cross, Orleans, Firefall, Gary Wright, Robbie Dupree, John Ford Coley & Player.

Because there were so many bands, the show moved along at breakneck pace.  The evening began with John Ford Coley, who had a string of mellow Seventies’ hits with his partner England Dan, who passed away in 2009.  Coley oddly made no mention of his deceased partner (who sang all the hits), but did formidable versions of “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again,” and “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.”  The highlight of his short set was the Todd Rundgren-penned “Love is the Answer,” which featured a fantastic soprano sax solo from Firefall multi-instrumentalist David Muse. Before you could blink, Coley gave way to Robbie Dupree, who had his soulful voice still intact for his two early Eighties’ smashes – the Doobie Brother-homage “Steal Away” and the blue-eyed soulful “Hot Rod Hearts.”

After only those pair of songs, Dupree brought on Peter Beckett and Ronn Moss of Player.  While the other bands were dressed in more casual attire, these guys still looked like rockers – Moss wore a bright yellow shirt and Beckett still sported long hair and sunglasses.  They did their only two hits – “This Time I’m in It For Love,” and “Baby Come Back,” which sounded fantastic.  Beckett played an impressive solo on his Les Paul and could still hit the high falsetto notes at the end – they honestly looked like they were having a blast.

But, just like turning the radio dial, after only two tunes, Player ushered in Gary Wright, who opened with a funky rendition of “Love is Alive” – which featured another fantastic Muse solo.  Then, he mentioned his friendship with George Harrison which helped inspire the classic “Dream Weaver.”  Although Wright has played Fraze several times as part of package tours, this stay was very brief – just those two songs, and he never picked up his signature, over-the-shoulder synthesizer.

The show progressed at a rapid pace as Wright segued into Firefall, who launched into “Just Remember I Love You,” which just missed the Top Ten in 1977, before leading the audience in a sing-a-long of their huge smash, “You Are the Woman.”  The real highlight of the entire evening was Firefall’s closer, the eerie “Strange Way,” which sped up near the end and stretched out several minutes longer, showcasing a jaw-dropping flute solo, once again from the incredibly talented Muse.

Orleans, who acted as the house band all night, were next.  They opened with the appropriate “Let There Be Music,” then the acoustic “Dance With Me,” which member (and former US Congressman) John Hall introduced as “the song where my mom finally stopped bugging me about going to college.”  The band did a surprisingly Caribbean-tinged rendition of the King Harvest nugget “Dancing in the Moonlight,” and the buoyant, harmony-filled “Love Takes Time.”  Orleans’ obvious set closer was “Still the One,” which featured fantastic dual lead solos from Hall and Dennis Amero, and got the audience singing along.

The final act on the bill was multi-Grammy winner Christopher Cross, who looked unassuming in a baseball hat.  He opened with “Never Be the Same,” one of four Top 20 hits from his debut album, which featured a fine alto sax solo from Alex Budman, then another smash, “Arthur’s Theme.”  As the headliner, Cross had the freedom to play the only new song of the evening, “Dreamer,” which he dedicated to both the Wright Brothers and Steve Jobs. The final two songs of his set were the breezy “Sailing,” and a rousing take on “Ride Like the Wind,” which featured some amazingly deft guitar lines from Cross – who knew he could play guitar like that?

Cross exited, yet the evening wasn’t totally over.  Members of Firefall, Orleans, and Player returned for a good-time reading of “Take It Easy.” It certainly made sense, since the entire mellow rock genre was directly descended from the tight harmonies and acoustic melodies of the Eagles.   It got the audience dancing and left everyone singing on the way to the car.

There’s not a single person in this concert that you would recognize if they were walking down the street.  Yet, these artists were responsible for dozens of songs collectively that you can still hear everyday on the radio. While there have been numerous package tours, I’ve never been to one with so many artista.  This kept the hit-quotient at an absolute peak, making for a really enjoyable evening.  –Tony Peters