Sail Rock 2013

August 13, 2013
Mayo Performing Arts Center
Morristown, New Jersey

Review by Ralph Greco, Jr.

Do you know where you were when you heard…?

It was that kind of a night at Sail Rock 2013. The bill fill with soft rock hits we all knew (and the artists that made them from 1976 to 1980), this proved to be a rather spectacular two-hour plus concert.

Up first: John Ford Coley from England Dan and John Ford Coley (Wayland Seals aka England Dan passed away in 2009). An affable guy with an easy stage patter, Coley stood off-center stage, playing keys with the five-piece house band Orleans, who backed various artists and played their own set. Coley ran through “We’ll Never Have To Say Goodbye Again,” “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” (his best song of the three he played) and “Love Is The Answer.”

Though his voice was a little worse for wear, Coley proved, as would be evident all night, that Orleans were a perfectly placed and well mixed (hats off to the sound guy) band for the occasion.

Robbie Dupree followed, rolling through two hits — 1980’s “Steal Away” and the lesser known “Hot Rod Hearts.” Dupree was in fine voice, hitting his high notes and punctuating the space in between his songs with a quick but cool harmonica solo.

Player, with original members Ronn Moss and Peter Beckett, hit the stage next and the duo, with Orleans backing, managed through “This Time I’m In It For Love,” then the band’s big hit, “Baby Come Back,” where Moss traded riffs with Orleans’ Dennis “Fly” Amero, who was spot-on the entire night.

Orleans opened their own set with “Let There Be Music,” “Dance With Me” with Amero and John Hall on lead vocals, and Lance Hoppen singing lead on “Still The One” (he provided backing vocals the whole night). Hall, a former New York Congressman and a big guy with a quick smile, talked through lots of the introductions, while drummer Charlie Morgan was probably the best musician of the night.

After the intermission, Gary Wright hit the stage with “Love Is Alive.” It was a competent read although Wright wasn’t up for all the highest notes. Orleans keyboardist Lane Hoppen, bassist Lance Hoppen and Morgan back Wright on “Dream Weaver,” and I was damn well tickled pink to hear him hit all those high notes, making it a highlight of the night.

Firefall followed with guitarists Jock Bartley and Johnne Sambataro running through “Just Remember I Love You” and “You Are The Woman,” featuring some fantastic flute work by David Muse. There was a great jam on “Strange Way,” with Sambataro handling the vocals and Orleans chugging along behind Bartley’s expert riffery.

Christopher Cross opened with “Never Be The Same” followed by “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do),” then a newer song (the only artist of the night to trot out something other than an old hit), “Dreamers” from his 2011 Dr. Faith album. This was the only song in Cross’s 20 minute set that I felt he didn’t just phone in his performance and his voice sparkled. He played “Sailing” and a rocking “Ride Like The Wind,” but on these, it appeared Cross either doesn’t have the voice for his hits any longer or the care to perform them.

Everyone except Cross and Wright came out to encore Jackson Browne’s “Take It Easy,” before the entourage called it a night. I wonder if they’re sailing to their gig…

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