Christopher Cross Sailed Away at Akron's Goodyear Theater
March 17th, 2019
Much like Jeff Sessions' recusal from the Mueller investigation into President Trump's alleged involvement with Russian interests, perhaps I'm not the right guy to objectively review this show.
You see, I have a very soft spot in my hardened old heart for the music of Christopher Cross. My father, who was a swing music nut and an avowed hater of Rock Music (or, as he would say, "Your music" to my young ears) would take me to the movies when I was a young teen. We saw such opuses as First Blood, "10," Victor/Victoria (which sported a fantastic jazzy score by Henry Mancini, a main reason my dad wanted to see the film in the first place), and of course, Arthur.
Upon hearing Cross' voice during the film's opening my dad was intrigued by the young singer/songwriter. He talked about him after the fact and, shockingly, went out and purchased his album a few days after we had taken in the movie. We were at dinner one night and my dad exclaimed that "Christopher Cross has to call himself that because there was a band back in the '50s called 'Chris Cross,' so he can't steal that name, it's already been used."
My dad and I formed a bond, musical at best because of this soft rock artist, but a kinship nonetheless. And, at the age of fourteen, that may be something kind of special. After a long, debilitating illness my father died a few years later, leaving me with a very personal reason to smile every time I hear a Cross tune on the radio.
Well, I was all smiles last night as the multi-award winning singer/songwriter played Akron's Goodyear Theater to a very enthusiastic crowd. Cross, making an extremely rare Northeast Ohio appearance, wowed the smallish St. Patrick's Day weekend audience with a set of tunes that encompassed his forty-year career.
Coming to prominence in the early 1980s, Cross was huge, winning five Grammys for his debut album Christopher Cross in 1981. He went on to win a "Best Song" Oscar the next year for "Arthur's Theme," from the Dudley Moore-starrer Arthur.
Somewhat like Orson Welles, the thirtysomething tenor-voiced Cross had provided his fans and the music industry with a rarity: A young up-and-comer who took the world by storm. But now he had to do something that even Welles couldn't accomplish in Hollywood; he had to wow them again. Although he never released an album that had the same cultural impact as his debut record and the smash successes of "Ride Like the Wind," and "Sailing," Cross became a journeyman musician and storyteller. Although falling out of favor due to MTV's push of edgier music videos in the mid 1980s, Cross still continued to record and tour. Lately, however, satellite radio's tongue-in-cheek labeled "Yacht Rock" brand of softer music, Cross has regained his stature and popularity over the last few years.
Offering a sixteen-tune set, the band took the stage a little after eight o'clock and played until almost 10:30, albeit with a fifteen-minute intermission. The staid and serious-faced Cross started off the evening with a trio of his best-known tunes. "All Right," from 1983's Another Page started off the show, with Cross' two female backup singers taking on most of the vocal duties while a sullen Mr. Cross stared down at the stage while they sang.
"Never Be the Same" came up next; this time Cross' tenor took over and he looked a little more upbeat. By "Sailing," the evening's third offering, the audience was providing the band with a tender vibe that seemed to erase the why-so-serious look on the frontman's face.
Offering up "Reverend Blowhard," it was a stinging rebuke of all the "charlatan" evangelists who seem to take advantage of their flocks' pay-to-play salvation. Cross, offering a few stories about his Catholic upbringing, delved into religious territory, a dangerous toe-dip-in-the-water in this day and age. However, the crowd seemed to enjoy his take on the subject, especially later when he relayed a story about touching a beloved nun's hair (which had always been hidden by her habit) and his public high school friend's response.
Of course, when the familiar opening keyboard strains of "Arthur's Theme" lit up the venue, so did my face. It was the one moment of the evening that I had been waiting for since, well, late last year when the show was announced. Although Cross' voice and his almost-falsetto tenor isn't as sharp as it was when he cut the tune almost forty years ago, there was still enough magic in it to make me smile almost uncontrollably.
After that, the band played a few of his lesser-known tunes such as "The Light Is On" and "Dreamers" before a short intermission.
Coming back onstage for the second act, the huge hit "Minstrel Gigolo" was cut and replaced by "Faith" and "Let Me In." He told the audience that he took his children to Africa and that the experience was magical. He played a refreshingly different little tune called "Light the World," with his backup singers providing the chorus in Swahili.
With that he offered "Ride Like the Wind" to a crowd that was on its feet and clapping along. As an encore he talked a bit about the climate in today's divided world and closed out the night with a stirring cover of Lennon's "Imagine."
I left the theater in a rush. I got to my car, threw my camera bag in the back seat and grabbed my dad's thirty-seven year old Arthur soundtrack, then headed over to the tour bus.
He signed it for me.
And, like most things about the love of music, it was very personal. As I'm writing this review it sits on the shelf above my computer, staring down at me next to the photo of my father and a signed Woody Herman photo that my dad brought me after we saw the old Big Band leader when I was a young boy. Strange how, after so many decades, a smile can come to your face over something as simple as a Christopher Cross concert and the idea of time being bridged by a new autograph adorning an old record.
I told you that maybe I wasn't the right guy to review this show; but I'll bet that you have a story much like mine. So I suppose you'll forgive me.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley