Thursday, September 27, 2007

LRB's 2007 line-up still satisfies

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Wayne Nelson of LRB


Playing impeccable versions of a dozen hit songs from the group's heyday, the 2007 version of the Little River Band (LRB) appeared at the Island Resort and Casino showroom on Friday, Sept. 20.

While the band enjoyed its greatest popularity from 1977 to 1983, it has continued to be active, playing about 100 dates each year.

Wasting no subtlety on the audience, the band launched the evening's program with "Reminiscing," their biggest hit. No less than John Lennon admitted to liking the song which reached No. 3 on the charts in the summer of 1978 thanks in part to heavy play on FM radio.

Vocal duties were handled by Wayne Nelson as they have been since 1999, although the singer joined LRB in 1980 as bassist. The rest of the current band includes guitarist Greg Hind, who joined in 2000; keyboardist Chris Marion, who was added in 2004; and new drummer Melvin Watts. Signing up with the band last year was lead guitarist Rich Herring. He replaced Stephen Housden, owner of the Little River Band name, who decided not to participate in the current tour.

After "Reminiscing," the band delivered note perfect renditions of "Man on Your Mind," "Happy Anniversary" and "Take It Easy on Me," all featuring Nelson, who used his fine rock voice with confidence throughout the show.

Next up, Hind took a turn at the microphone with "The Other Guy," which was given a bluesy arrangement, quite different from the 1983 original. LRB's first American hit, "It's a Long Way There," complete with a funky guitar solo, followed.

An obscure "Forever Blue," a hit in Holland in 1996, was a surprise for fans.

A trio of Top Ten tunes drove home the striking number of hits attributed to LRB, with the veteran Nelson commanding the audience's attention from center stage. "The Night Owls," closely recalled Nelson's vocals on the original recording, while some fans stood during "Cool Change" which included an appealing keyboard intro courtesy of Marion. With an extended version of "Lonesome Loser," the band earned a standing ovation and left the stage.

An encore was demanded by the audience, of course, but when the band returned the house lights were turned on when Nelson explained he needed a few pictures of the crowd to post on the band's website.

The singer then invited eager audience members to dance in front of the stage as the band played "Drift Away." With Nelson telling the crowd, "This is the best Friday night I can remember in a long time," the band concluded with a meticulous version of 1979's "Lady."

Always known for immaculate live shows, the LRB line-up which played at Harris last weekend offered flawless timing and technique, including inspired guitar solos from Hind and Herring.

The original group, formed in 1975, included key members Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock and Graeham Goble, three talented singers and songwriters who wrote most of their hits.

Conflicts over touring, musical direction, and the pressures of success took their toll as the years passed. Shorrock, the lead singer, was forced out of the band in 1982, replaced by John Farnham. Birtles left the following year while Goble did the same in 1990. In turn, Farnham left in 1986, only to be replaced by Shorrock.

In fact, there have been numerous personnel changes during the band's existence. Including current members, the Little River Band has had four lead vocalists, five lead guitarists, five guitarists, five bassists, seven drummers and seven keyboardists.

Various legal battles also caused clashes among band members. By 1997, when 15-year-veteran guitarist Stephen Housden remained as the lone member of LRB, band assets, including the name and logo, were transferred to his control in what some interested parties called a legal blunder.

While founding members Birtles, Shorrock and Goble have performed together under their own names in Australia, Housden's Little River Band continues to stake out musical territory in the United States during annual tours.

Thus, the story continues, 32 years on.

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