After 35 years together, it would be easy for Air Supply to play it safe.
To the credit of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock, the band's founding duo, they are looking for ways to continue to evolve musically.
Air Supply is back on the pop music charts for the first time in 20 years, thanks to a striking new album, Mumbo Jumbo. At Penn's Peak on Friday night, it showcased a good portion of the current release.
That could be a risky move when there's a hit-filled repertoire of tried and true love songs available. Most groups of Air Supply's vintage don't gamble on messing with success and won't insert more than one or two new tunes along with the classics audiences expect.
Air Supply pulled it off, due to the quality of the new material, which allowed the group to stretch itself, rocking out more than anticipated, while remaining consistent with its signature sound.
The show kicked off with a mosh-up of Air Supply hit snippets and a segment of "Setting The Seen", the opening track of Mumbo Jumbo, which according to Russell, who penned or co-wrote the songs, is a concept album about a young man leaving home and his experiences, including becoming involved with two beings from another dimension who have come into this world as a man and woman.
While that concept provides a theme for the album, the new songs are strong enough to stand out by themselves and held up well alongside more familiar Air Supply fare such as "Even the Nights Are Better", "Here I Am" and "Just As I Am", which opened the performance.
By the fourth song, Air Supply was ready to take the plunge. Russell started "Hold On" on acoustic guitar before Hitchcock and the band kicked in, providing the hook. "Faith In Love", another new one, with a midtempo feel, followed. The title track of Mumbo Jumbo was more upbeat, funkier at times, with a message about watching out for misinformation.
One of the highlights from the new songs was "A Little Bit More", a lovely ballad written and sung by Russell about a young couple getting married on the eve of the husband's departure for war. Instead of fading out at the end, however, Graham raised his singing almost to a shout, bringing an emotional emphasis.
Hitchcock's soaring lead vocals remains an Air Supply trademark and were showcased in a cover of "The Power of Love" and Jim Steinman's "Making Love Out of Nothing At All", which calls for a breathless delivery that Hitchcock manages with ease.
The new single, "Dance With Me", has reached number 28 on the Billboard charts this week and received a good reaction, with its sweeping feel and catchy flourishes, and the concert rendition added even more life to the stage.
The two-song encore featured yet another new song, the rocking "Me Like You" and the hit standard "All Out of Love", complete with a drum solo, yet.
Of course, there's only room for so many songs in a 90 minute set, so some of the usual hits fell by the wayside this time ("Lost in Love" and "Every Woman in the World" made the cut), but the tradeoff was a chance to watch established artists taking some chances.
Russell and Hitchcock remain extremely gracious to their fans, roaming the Peak's floor and interacting with the audience during "The One That You Love" and sticking around to greet those that stayed afterward.
When it comes down to it, you can't deny Air Supply.