Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Ambassadors of love

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER


Air Supply has sold out the Taipei leg of its farewell tour, proving yet again that the soft rock duo is still the one that Taiwan loves.

Singer Russell Hitchcock and composer-guitarist Graham Russell are honorary citizens of this country. Their 1993 recording The Vanishing Race went platinum here, and two years later they teamed up with the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra for a live album.

These facts are a source of endless bemusement for some members of the city's indie music scene, where news of Air Supply's latest visit to the country was greeted with indifference or derision. No one interviewed would admit to enjoying the band's music, not even in an ironic way.

"Air Supply is so cheesy. Their songs all sound the same," said Xiao Yu, 30, who was serving drinks Sunday night at the Underground bar on Shida Road.

She said she felt the same way when she first heard the band 15 years ago and was tired hearing their music every-where she goes. "You're forced to hear them. It's annoying," she said, drawing laughter from a patron in a page boy cap who nearly spat his Heineken through his nose.

Over at the DJ booth, Lin Hao-yu (林浩宇) and Chen Yen-hao (陳彥豪) joked that the easy listening duo, known for hits such as Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, The One That You Love, and All Out Of Love, were "the most popular artists in Taiwan."

"I liked them when I was younger, but music has changed and they keep playing the same thing," said Lin, a 30-year-old photographer who was wearing thick, dark-rimmed glasses and drinking Taiwan beer. "They've been here nine times. They should move to Taipei and live in Tianmu," joked Chen, 36, as he adjusted the volume on the mixer.

Air Supply formed in 1975, when Australian Hitchcock and Briton Russell met during a Sydney production of Jesus Christ Superstar. With their simple ballads and upbeat pop numbers, they have long been the preferred whipping boys for rock critics worldwide, a status they cemented early on when they toured the US with Rod Stewart in 1977, the year of punk.

But they stormed the US charts with four hit albums in the 1980s and have managed to stretch that success into two additional decades of lucrative gigs, especially in Asia. On one tour in the mid-1990s, they sold out six 20,000-seat auditoriums in China. Their album Now And Forever -- Greatest Hits Live, which they recorded here in 1995, sold half a million copies in the region and topped the Chinese charts for 16 weeks.

"It's all America's fault," said Yeh Wan-ching (葉宛青), 28, who was closing up shop Monday night at White Wabbit Orange (小白兔橘子) record store located at The Wall in Taipei. "I don't think they're cheesy, I just don't listen to them," said employee Hsu Wei-hung (徐圍恆), 21.

Things were different over at the decidedly mainstream Rose Records in Gongguan. Upstairs in the store's Western music section, a clerk pointed at six copies of Air Supply's Ultimate Collection, which had just arrived Tuesday. She said they would sell out before the end of the month.

"High school and junior high school students aren't familiar with Air Supply," she said. "But they're popular with university and vocational school students."

How popular?

"As popular as U2," she said.

Air Supply plays Taichung's National Chung Hsing University Huisun Audi-torium (台中中興大學惠蓀堂) on May 18 at 7:30pm. Tickets cost from NT$1,600 to NT$2,500 and are still available. Air Supply's May 16 and May 17 concerts, both at 7:30pm at Taipei's International Convention Center (台北國際會議中心), are sold out.

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