It’s not often — I’d be willing to bet never — that “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” by Christopher Cross is selected as the opener for a live performance, but it was welcomed with cheers from an enthusiastic crowd in Ardmore on Thursday night. East Lancaster Avenue was Memory Lane for a few hours as Yacht Rock Revue took the stage of Ardmore Music Hall and ripped through a 27-song, two-set show of nostalgic tunes from yesteryear.
The seven-piece band formed in 2007 in Atlanta, born out of a variety act that was originally going to be called AM Gold (in honor of the 35-CD Time-Life music series of soft rock classics of the ’60s and ’70s released in the mid ’90s). Around that same time, an unrelated series of video shorts called “Yacht Rock,” which presented a fictionalized, comical look at the careers of some of those soft rock icons, was going viral and gaining popularity.
“Mark, our drummer, and I had always listened to these dentist office mixes, so we kind of referred to it as dentist office music,” said bassist Greg Lee. “Then somebody discovered the series, and we said ‘Yacht Rock — that’s a good name for it.'” It apparently was already a genre on iTunes at the time, as well. So, the group seized on the vibe and has been touring ever since.
Decked in vintage clothes, the band journeyed through a repertoire that spanned 18 years between 1968 and 1986 with many stops in between. Some of the more memorable covers included “Brandy” by Looking Glass, “Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Huey Lewis and ther News, Steely Dan favorites “Peg” and “Reelin’ In The Years,” “Baby Come Back” by Player, and “I’m Alright,” the theme from the film “Caddyshack” by Kenny Loggins.
Every tune sparked a memory for everyone in attendance, a crowd of mostly 40- and 50-somethings. “They invigorate my youth” said Cheryl Bosley, who traveled from the Baltimore area for the show. Having discovered the band on a whim while on a trip to Nashville and loving them, she was happy to make the trek. “I didn’t even know where Ardmore, PA was!” she said. “But I was coming.”
While trying to convince everyone seated during intermission to come dance during the second set, Bosley encouraged everyone to “explore your inner youth that you forgot about.”
Laura Tomkins traveled all the way from Atlanta for the show, having seen the band on numerous occasions there. Originally from the Philadelphia area, she timed her visit with some old friends to coincide with the performance. “This band is the best,” she said. “It’s like the best wedding reception you’ve ever been to: You know every word to every song. You dance and have a great time. I can’t say enough how much fun it is.”
While the dancing and reminiscing are great, one must not lose sight of the musicianship of the band. They can flat-out play — extremely well. I was blown away by how well they covered each song; every nuance, subtle background parts, and very challenging harmonies.
One person commented that he didn’t think some of those bands back then could have performed these songs better than this group. That is a huge reason why Jack Strong was in attendance, seeing them for the sixth time. Despite having recently turned 40, he doesn’t believe age has anything to do with the enjoyment of the group. “When I was 18 I would’ve been here. And when I’m 65 I’ll still be here. I just like good music,” he said.
Front man Nicholas Niespodziani agrees, and he loves the fact that the band is able to entertain a wide audience. “The coolest part of our job is that we make people happy for a living. Everywhere we go people are so happy to see us,” he said. “We’re bringing back these memories for older people and creating memories for younger people. Twenty-five-year-old girls are bonding with their moms and dads over this music. It’s really a pretty special thing that we get to experience on a nightly basis.”