Ambrosia & Friends Enchant The Paramount Huntington, NY 10-27-17

Ambrosia & Friends Enchant The Paramount Huntington, NY 10-27-17

The history of Rock-n-Roll dates all the way back to the 1940s, and since then, many sub-genres have been spawned from its foundation. Part Blues, Jazz, R&B, Country, and even Gospel, Rock-n-Roll’s influences run far and wide. That in mind, each decade has offered their own unique style to the history books, and the 1970s saw two forms of Rock prominently take centerstage. One, Hard Rock with bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. Then there was the other side of the spectrum, Soft Rock – a calmer, more refined style of music that dominated the charts well into the 1980s. Artists like Seals & Crofts, Hall & Oates, Bread, Firefall, Kenny Loggins, and of course Ambrosia, crafted some of the most memorable tunes of the time. 

Speaking of the times, well, they have changed. Styles/trends shift, and new faces of popular music emerge, although, nothing beats the classics. Thankfully, bands like Ambrosia still keep the music of ’70s and ’80s alive as they tour across the country year after year. So, how about if Ambrosia teamed up with a mix of artists everyone knows and loves from the era for a unified performance? Experimenting with this very concept, Ambrosia joined forces with Bill Champlin, Robbie Dupree, and Peter Beckett for a one night showcase at The Paramount in Huntington, New York. Dubbing the evening Ambrosia & Friends, it all came together on the brisk fall evening of Friday, October 27, 2017 as music lovers of all ages gathered to indulge themselves. 

Initially scheduled to include Singer-Songwriter John Ford Coley, unfortunately Coley fell ill, resulting in his exclusion from the performance. Fortunately he is recovering nicely and should be back on the road in a solo capacity very soon. That in mind, the show carried on without a hitch as the orchestrators Ambrosia shifted their set plans seamlessly. Now, some are probably wondering how exactly did Ambrosia & Friends split stage time. Did Ambrosia play, leave the stage, and the other artists perform? Well, no, as mentioned, being the founders of the special show, Ambrosia acted as the band of the night, providing all the backing instruments for each artist which revolved from behind the curtain throughout the performance. A plan that allowed for consistent music throughout the night, minus a brief intermission, it was all killer and no filler. Let us put it this way, if you are a SiriusXM subscriber, this was like the summer only channel Yacht Rock, but live in the flesh! 

Now that you are on the edge of your seat in anticipation, let us get to the music, and the show began just after the 8 PM hour with Ambrosia’s long time members Joe Puerta (vocals/bass), Burleigh Drummond (drums/vocals), and Chris North (keyboards/vocals), along with Doug Jackson (guitar/vocals), Mary Harris (keyboards/vocals), as well as Ken Stacey (vocals), taking the stage in high spirits. Wasting little time to get right to the music, they gifted some original tunes as an appetizer, including the 1978 favorite “How Much I Feel.”

From there, Mr. Robbie Dupree came out to a warm welcome from the audience as he prepared to join the fun. Nominated for a Grammy in 1981, Dupree, originally from the borough of Brooklyn, felt right at home on the Long Island stage. Remembered fondly for making a big impact on the charts back in 1980 with his self-titled debut record, he captivated the room with a powerful vocal performance that of course included his mega hit, “Steal Away.” Throwing in a harmonica solo, Dupree mixed well with the members of Ambrosia during their jam, going into other tracks including “Hot Rod Hearts” and “All Night Long.” A delightful collaboration, this was only the beginning as a revolving door of talent emerged from out of the darkness of stage right from this point on. 

That said, it was not before long that Peter Beckett would arrive to a rousing ovation. Beckett, hailing from Liverpool England, is famously known as the lead singer and guitarist of his hit-making band Player. Coming out with a thick, flowing head of hair and sunglasses on, Beckett permeated the essence of a rockstar with his guitar strapped over his shoulder. Ready to go, he performed beloved Player songs including “Baby Come Back” and “How Long” as well as a personal favorite of his, from his time with the Little River Band, “Night Owl.” As mentioned, very Rock-n-Roll in his presentation, Beckett showed his chops on guitar as he dished out some solos and entertained the crowd. Elate to be teaming with with Ambrosia, Beckett told his share of jokes to keep the mood loose between songs that also included Player’s memorable “This Time I’m in It for Love.” Bidding the audience farewell, Beckett certainly gave a fun, dominating performance.

At this point, while the night was waning toward its conclusion, there was still plenty left to come as Ambrosia took on the audience solo for some tunes including their distinctive rendition of The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.” Creating a mood with their oh so tight and smooth instrumentation, they soon announced a brief intermission, but returned shortly thereafter with the final guest of the night, Bill Champlin. 

Champlin, a multiple Grammy Award songwriter, has worked with some of the best in the business, including Jay Graydon, Toto’s Steve Lukather, and George Benson. Furthermore, who could not forget his entrance into Chicago during the 1980s, providing vocals on some of their most recognized hits of the era. Needless to say, the excitement was high as Champlin came out along with his lovely wife Tamara Champlin to perform a list of amazing tunes. In fact, it was a jolt of energy from the start as Champlin stood center stage, set toward the back behind a keyboard, rocking out his co-written favorite “Turn Your Love Around.”

Locked into the music, Champlin spent a decent amount of time behind those keys while the rest of the members of Ambrosia followed his lead through other songs including “After The Love Has Gone.” A delightful time in the evening, his wife Tamara even stepped out from backing vocal duties to take the spotlight on songs like Chicago’s “Hard Habit to Break” before Champlin himself came forward to get closer to the audience. This time with a guitar strapped over his shoulder, Champlin captivated on more favorites including the 1988 Chicago hit “Look Away.”  

All songs which brought wonderful memories to the forefront of the audience’s mind, it was a night to remember as the pace remained calm, yet lively. There was not a moment of distraction from the music. In fact, it was balanced so intricately, no one wanted to miss a minute. Such was the case as the night came to a close with Ambrosia’s final mix of songs including their own hits “You’re The Only Woman” and “Biggest Part of Me” before Dupree, Beckett, and Champlin all joined them for a good vibed cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Taking turn on lead vocals, it was a fun send-off that felt like a bunch of high school pals jamming in their garage, reminding all in attendance exactly why they love music so much. 

There will continue to be more Ambrosia performance through November, including dates with Player and Firefall, but this night at The Paramount was one of a kind. An experiment? Perhaps, but now it is easy to see Ambrosia has struck gold with the format of Ambrosia & Friends. It is exactly what has been missing, a show dedicated to ’70s and ’80s Soft Rock. Now let us hope 2018 brings a full blown Ambrosia & Friends tour, because it is not to be missed. 

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Frank Malerba
frank@crypticrock.com
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