Russell Hitchcock has one piece of advice for audiophiles: Think twice before you call Air Supply a soft rock band.
“I think that when we first started recording, we used a lot of orchestrations and strings,” the Australian vocalist said in a phone interview. “It was kind of mellow, I admit that. But I think people are surprised the first time they see us on stage. We’re a rock ’n’ roll band. We’re not Metallica. But we’re not The Carpenters either. It can be very easy to become pigeonholed, but we’re probably more on the side of Metallica, by comparison. And we have a very dynamic and energetic show. We take a full-on rock approach.”
Tri-state audiences will have the opportunity to see for themselves when the duo comprised of Hitchcock and English singer, songwriter and guitarist Graham Russell — known along with their backing band as Air Supply — take the stage on Saturday, May 22, at Five Flags Center.
The show was rescheduled from March 27 to Oct. 9 last year, then was rescheduled a second time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The appearance marks the first time in nearly four decades that Air Supply has performed at the Dubuque venue. When it last appeared in July 1982, hits such as “The One That You Love,” “All Out of Love,” “Lost in Love,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Even the Nights are Better” and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” dominated the charts.
Fans can anticipate a trip down memory lane, hearing these hits and more, Hitchcock said.
“We try to play as many of the hits as we can,” Hitchcock said. “We also have a new piece that Graham performs in the middle of the show as a solo that’s quite fantastic. We’ve done this for so many years, but we still expect our band and expect each other to go out and perform as if it is the first show. We always get excited about it.”
Formed in 1975, the duo met during rehearsals for a stage adaptation of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Australia.
“It was my first job in show business, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Hitchcock said. “I had never been surrounded by so much talent and so many great singers. I was blown away.”
But history began laying the groundwork when Hitchcock learned that Russell, a fellow cast member, also could write.
“That was fascinating to me,” Hitchcock said.
The duo began collaborating, eventually touring throughout the U.S. as an opening act for Rod Stewart in the mid to late 1970s. But much to Hitchcock and Russell’s surprise, when the duo returned to Australia, there wasn’t much fanfare.
“And so, we went our separate ways; Graham went on writing songs, and I moved back in with my parents because I couldn’t afford to do anything else,” Hitchcock said. “One day, Graham called me up and said, ‘I’ve got this new song. Why don’t you come over and have a listen?’ So I did. The song was ‘All Out of Love.’ As soon as I heard it, I knew it was a hit.”
Having four moderately successful albums already under its belt, Air Supply would go on to record its landmark album, “Lost in Love,” in 1980, breaking through to international acclaim.
Success followed with 1981’s “The One That You Love” and 1982’s “Now and Forever,” in addition to Air Supply’s gold-certified self-titled effort in 1985.
And the rest, as Hitchcock said, is history.
“I think our success and longevity has been based on a combination of things,” Hitchcock said. “First, the songs. If you don’t have the songs, you’re nowhere. They’re simple songs, with simple chord structures. But they talk straight to the heart. People have responded very personally to them.”
The other aspect, Hitchcock said, is the band’s level of performance. During times not plagued by pandemics, Air Supply typically would average approximately 120 concert dates per year.
The road leaves little time for new music. Air Supply’s last studio release was 2010’s “Mumbo Jumbo.” But touring comes as a welcome focus, according to Hitchcock, particularly as the cloud from COVID-19 begins to lift.
“We’ve been very lucky that there still is an amazing demand for us,” he said. “People are coming to shows now, introducing us to their children and grandchildren. I say during every show that we don’t take anything for granted. We pride ourselves on putting on a great show, and we want to be the kind of show that well-worth people’s money — the kind of show that people would want to come back and see again, to escape from today’s world and just enjoy good music for a little while.”