By Jake Ebdale
Artist: Christopher Cross
Venue: Town Hall, Auckland
“Sailing takes me away to where I always heard it could be”
With that immortal, wafting chorus line, yacht rock’s flash in the pan was born. Enter Christopher Cross, a portly, balding Texan who made millions in 1980, winning five Grammys with his debut record, even beating Pink Floyd for Album of the Year.
It was simple back then – Cross sold the world the perfect escape plan. It was the idea of an easier, breezier life out on the sea by means of soothing melodies that could not only soundtrack a leisurely sail, but also a bath, a candlelit dinner, possibly casual foreplay, or all four at once if you were white enough. He used the word ‘wind’ a lot. Sure, ‘Sailing’ was actually about painting, but, hey, anything that helps that sweet, sweet champers go down on the 50-foot love vessel. Ahoy!
Anyway, Cross played last night at the Auckland Town Hall, with our own Rikki ‘Game of Love’ Morris opening. Though brief, Morris played an elegant set accompanied by piano, finishing with ‘Nobody Else’.
On to the Minstrel Gigolo and something people may not realise – Christopher Cross has major chops on the gat. Guess who sold Stevie Ray Vaughan his famed ‘Number One’ guitar? Christopher motherflippin’ Cross. Yep, the guy actually rips like Steve Lukather when he gets the chance. But for the most part, the show was a very low-key, slightly schmaltzy affair, with a backing band that jazzed up and occasionally stretched out songs that – I’m not gonna lie – I slightly despised in the first place. I’m all right if I never hear ‘All Right’ again.
The second song of the show was ‘Sailing’, and, yeah, OK, it was very special and means so much to many people. But just like he did in 1980, Cross peaked early. Sure, a lot of the show was of merit musically, with a French rhythm section and a multi-instrumentalist that aggressively channelled Kenny G at times (in this genre, that’s a good thing). However, the set was just four or five songs too long, with widely unfamiliar material I couldn’t possibly take the time out of my life to seek out (only three out of his 10 albums are widely available… on LP) with things starting to blend into one, like being trapped in an elevator on hold to the IRD.
The acoustic set was a much welcome change of pace, though, with the band successfully rearranging songs like ‘Spinning’ and ‘Say You’ll Be Mine’, also from the first album. But for every ‘Minstrel Gigolo’, there was an awful song about Steve Jobs or looking out of windows or something. ‘Ride Like the Wind’ (ALSO FROM THE FIRST ALBUM) closed the show, a genuinely great rock song that could soundtrack a sailing sojourn OR a road trip. And then it was done. It was all inoffensive fun, and at some points a slog for me personally. I enjoyed around 70% of it.
What I’ll take from the Christopher Cross show? Buy the first album, listen to Toto, watch ‘Arthur’ again and never, ever start wearing a cheesecutter.