Read our interview with local Wayne Newton of Little River Band.
Amy Morris remembers her first Little River Band concert like it was yesterday.
It was in Dallas, Texas. She was 14 years old. And it was one of the best moments of her entire life.
"I'll never forget it," said Morris, of Boca Raton. "I stood right at the front of the stage, and the lead guitar player sang to me the whole time."
Morris is 44 now, but her love for Little River Band hasn't aged a bit. She still equates the band's music with some of the best years of her life. And, like most people in attendance at the their free show Saturday night at Mizner Park Amphitheater, she was there to relive those times.
On a muggy night in downtown Boca, Little River Band took to the stage as part of the city's Free Summer Concert Series. Standing in front of a sea of folding chairs, the band brought the audience of about 2,500 people back in time to the 1970s, before cell phones and computers and anything with an i in front of it.
Led by bass-playing lead singer Wayne Nelson, the group played a showcase of its greatest hits throughout the past 40 years, including songs like "Reminiscing," "Long Way Home," and "Happy Anniversary."
Though the members of Little River Band have been in a constant state of musical chairs over the years (Nelson, its longest-standing member, joined the group in 1980), the band sounded as cohesive as ever. Nelson's vocals were spot-on during each song, pitch-perfect, and charged with energy that hasn't flagged with time.
But Nelson's singing was only the beginning. Joined by the falsetto voices of his bandmates, Little River Band put on a veritable clinic on vocal harmony. It's an element of musicianship that puts Littler River Band in rare company, alone at the top with other great vocal bands like the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas. Add in a few killer solos by guitarist Rick Herring, funky R&B rhythms by drummer Ryan Ricks, and some '80s new-wave synthesizer by keyboardist Chris Marion and you've got the trademark sound Littler River Band has made famous for more than 40 years.
That sound is what many of the band's most enduring fans love most, and it has remained relatively unchanged since the band's inception in 1975.
"It's a pure sound," said Suellen Caplan, of Boca, who has been listening to the band since it first came to the United States from Australia. "You hear it in their tonality. You don't have to digitally enhance them to make them sound good."
There's certainly something special about a band that can ignore the cheap tricks of the music industry and continue to resonate with fans. It demonstrates real integrity, a consistency that many of today's bands lack.
"So many bands come and go these days," said Caplan. "And it's all because they change with whatever the trends in the business are. But Little River Band's music is timeless."
At the Mizner Park Amphitheater last night, Little River Band seemed to defy time like no other band could. Its music had people of every age dancing and clapping along, from grandparents who were born before the Beatles appeared on TV to grandchildren who were born after the Backstreet Boys broke up. Little River Band's music, it seems, does not discriminate against age.
Longtime fan Steve Kant thinks it has something to do with memory.
"There's something your life you can relate every song to," said Kant, 50, from Birmingham, Alabama. "I remember doing things in my life while listening to their music, and each time I hear that song, I remember that place in my life."
That sentiment -- the idea of relating life memories to a certain song -- seemed to lie at the heart of all the Little River Band fans I talked to last night. For some, it was being in the crowd at a live concert in the '80s. For others, it was hearing the band's music while waiting in line at the supermarket. Whatever the case, fans at the concert last night just wanted to reclaim that sense of being happy all over again, to relive, if only for an instant, that moment in their lives when things were just a little bit better.
As the concert went on and the band played through its list of classics like "Help," "Cool Change," and "Lady," the atmosphere in the amphitheater changed. The mugginess that had been hanging over the crowd like a soggy quilt was replaced with a cool nighttime breeze. Slowly, and much to the chagrin of the Mizner Park security personnel, people began to inch up toward the front of the stage. They wanted to experience, once again, what it was like to stand under the glare of stage lights, to have music blaring in their ears, to dance with a total stranger.
But the effects of Father Time could not be ignored. Instead of lighters, people waved iPhones, and instead of beer goggles, people wore bifocals and transition lenses. But a few things remained the same: There was good music, good weather, and good times to be remembered -- and those things never change.
As the mass of bodies pressed together in front of the stage last night, Amy Morris stood with her arms outstretched, mouthing the lyrics to the songs she remembers listening to all those years ago. The men on stage were older now, and so was she. But that didn't stop her from gazing expectantly at the lead guitarist, hoping that this time, like last time, he would look her in the eyes and sing.
"Long Way Home"
"Man on Your Mind"
"The Other Guy"
"Home on Monday"
"Playing to Win"