The Little River Band
June 14, 2014
By Jeb Wright
It’s a Long Way There | Man On Your Mind | Happy Anniversary | Take it Easy On Me | The Other Guy | The Lost and Lonely | I’m An Island | Reminiscing | We Two | Help is On the Way | The Night Owls | Cool Change | You Dream I’ll Drive | Lady
The Little River Band made their way to the Heartland on June 14th and put on one hell of a show – in front of over ten thousand adoring fans, I might add. Yes, there were a lot of Kansans packed into Central Park in little ol’ Andover, Kansas. The weather, other than being windy, was perfect. The picturesque atmosphere made one comfortable as the stage was nestled into a field, adjacent to a beautiful body of water. The lawn chairs were out and the barbeque contest added a delightful aroma to the festivities. The setting was perfect for an evening of classic rock. The LRB took care of the tunes. The band, led by bassist/vocalist Wayne Nelson, is a hit-playing machine, offering up vocal harmonies that melt butter, tasty twin lead guitar solos and a driving backbeat that makes one move to the music.
Yes, you just read a paragraph that was over the top complimentary about…yes…THE LITTLE RIVER BAND! These guys get made fun of in movies and even they realize that some of their most famous tunes are guilty pleasures. Oh come on, how many of us hard rockers have been cruising in our car with the windows down when “Lonesome Loser” comes on the radio? What happens? The volume goes up and we sing it at the top of our lungs and rock out during the guitar solo…that’s what happens. Damn it all… I, for one am ready to say it, loudly and proudly…The Little River Band rocks! Well, not on the soft songs, but, hey, even they are damn good. These guys are fine musicians and amazing vocalists.
Maybe part of the reason why their popularity dwindled is that The Little River Band has no original members. Okay, that’s true. Nelson was there for some of the biggest hits, though. He was also the last man standing after everyone else jumped ship. What many do not realize is that the LRB was put together by powerful men in the music business from Australia. They took three popular artists in Australia and put them together to create a ‘supergroup’ of sorts. The goal was to find success in the USA. It worked…for a few years. The more popular the band became, however, the more turmoil they were in. Finally, people started leaving and for years there was a revolving door. Nelson entered in 1980 and is the only guy still there today. Ironically, other than drummer Ryan Ricks, this version of the band has been constant since 2006, making this band more of a band than ever before. It shows too, in the tightness of their sound and performance.
LRB is touring in support of their latest album Cuts Like a Diamond, which is a return to the group’s classic sound. It is an album that needs to be heard, as it is a testament to the current lineup of the band. On this night, the band trotted out three new tunes, “The Lost and the Lonely,” “I’m an Island” and “You Dream I’ll Drive.” Each new tune was received well. “The Lost and the Lonely” is very much an LRB tune, and was the most accepted of the new songs. “I’m an Island” written by guitarist Rich Herring, is a touching ballad that truly delivered live, with a ton of emotion. “You Dream I’ll Drive” is a laid back tune that has that kinda summer-breezy-type-thing going for it. The good news for the band is that during the new tunes there was no mass exodus to the beer line or the bathroom. Those in attendance were happy to check out and accept these new tunes.
New songs were not all that was being served up, however. Nelson and company know that people want to hear the best of the bunch, meaning the classics. The band opened up with “It’s a Long Way There.” The band hit the harmonies with “Hey everybody…” while Herring and fellow guitarist Greg Hind added the distorted power chords. The crowd was immediately grooving to the sounds. Next up was “Man on Your Mind” followed by “Happy Anniversary.” Nelson made the crowd laugh by stating, “This is a song that anyone who has been in a grocery store in the last twenty years knows the chorus to.”
The hits continued with the poignant “Take It Easy on Me” and a bluesy version of “The Other Guy.” The former was done with much class and sounded sweet. The latter was a different kind of version that the band clearly loved performing, more than the crowd it seems, in hindsight. While it was a creative move, they may have been better-off sticking to the original version. The casual LRB fan likes their hits recognizable; the die-hard fan of LRB wants their hits unmolested. The band had people singing along to the song “Reminiscing” before getting them up on their feet for one of the best performances of the evening in “Help is On the Way.”
The LRB played a smart set. They mixed it up, some old, some new, some happy, some melancholy, some bouncy and some soft. Then they rocked it up with a hard rocking version of “The Night Owls” which featured some of the tastiest axe riffs of evening. “Cool Change” followed, and the crowd was on their feet singing from the opening line. In the middle of the tune, normally a five minute classic 70s ballad, one would never expect a guitar duel. Even more, one would not expect a guitar duel to work in a ballad setting. Yet, this is just what the crowd was given, and it worked in a big way. Licks were traded back and forth, as the band kept it soft in the background accenting the solos when needed, but mostly staying out of the way of the two guitarists. This was the best musical moment of the evening for us hard-rockers.
Nelson addressed the crowd with a camera in hand and took photos of the huge crowd on their feet and celebrating. While he had everyone in the palm of his hand, he had his keyboard player, Chris Marion, start the song “Lady.” This is just great music, a classic tune with a huge emotional chorus made for a crowd to sing along to. After the song, once the massive applause died down, Nelson stood alone on the stage stating “The young guys had to leave the stage for some oxygen.” He smiled, laughed and once the band was back onstage, he led them through a chorus of the Three Dog Night classic “Mama Told Me Not To Come” before jumping into the familiar vocal beginning of “Lonesome Loser.” This tune, and the tasty guitar solo, ended the night on a high note. The energy of the large crowd was one of togetherness, happiness and peacefulness. Unlike many bands, the focus on this night was not on a fancy light show, a stage set or a gimmick, but rather on the vocals, music and the songs, which is refreshing. If you have never seen LRB live, then you may not know exactly what I am speaking of, and you owe it to yourself to experience them… this band has always had an amazing set with great musicians.
The Little River Band in 2014 is pumping out both new music and old, and doing it extremely well. There will always be a certain degree of controversy surrounding them, but, if one opens their minds, and their ears, they will discover a very talented group of men playing a great set of music. Come on, admit it… you know you love their music!
The LRB in 2014 is:
Wayne Nelson - bass (1980-1996, 1999–present), lead vocals (2000–present)
Greg Hind - guitar, vocals (2000–present)
Chris Marion - keyboards, vocals (2004–present)
Rich Herring - guitar, vocals (2006–present)
Ryan Ricks - drums, vocals (2012–present)