John Hall - guitar, vocals; Larry Hoppen - guitar, keyboard, vocals; Lance Hoppen - bass, vocals; Wells Kelly - drums, keyboards, percussion, vocals; Jerry Marotta - drums, percussion, vocals
Fronted by the guitar playing vocalists John Hall and Larry Hoppen, Orleans built its initial reputation through relentless touring on the Northeast club and college circuit in the early 1970s. Based out of the artist/musician community of Woodstock in the Catskills of New York, Hall's formidable gifts as a songwriter and the band's finely crafted songs and polished live performances earned them early recognition from Rolling Stone magazine, which declared Orleans "the best unrecorded band in America." Showcase performances in New York City led to a recording contract and the release of the band's debut album in 1973. However, it was two years later that the band scored its first hit with "Let There Be Music" in 1975. Now forever remembered for the sweetly harmonious hits that soon followed, "Dance With Me" and "Still The One," in reality the group was far more adventurous, incorporating reggae, R&B, soul, and jazz elements into their uplifting finely crafted pop-rock songs, many with elaborate vocal arrangements. Unlike many groups of this era that relied on studio wizardry to create a highly polished sound, the members of Orleans were talented musicians who had the vocal prowess to deliver the goods outside the studio.
A month prior to this performance, hundreds of thousands jammed into downtown Boston to catch them, along with Heart and Burton Cummings at the Charles River Esplanade's Hatch Shell, providing Orleans with their largest audience to date. Roaring approval from the monumental crowd led to numerous encores and the band was elated at the astounding success of this event. All of this makes this particular concert, recorded the following month, all the more interesting, as it features the classic Orleans lineup performing at a private party. The owner of the Philadelphia 76ers threw this lavish event for his daughter, a fan of the group. Held in an outdoor courtyard of the Country Club in Philadelphia, this performance harkens back to the group's club days, performing before an intimate audience of several hundred people.
The enthusiasm of the group is immediately apparent on the funky soul-flavored "What I Need" from the 1976 album, Waking And Dreaming. This not only features the band's harmonious vocals, but includes surprisingly aggressive guitar work, displaying the instrumental prowess of the band in a most positive light. They return to vintage material with "Tongue Tied," another staple of the band's early clubbing days and featured on the 1973 debut. This funky rocker cranks things up before they tackle two more highlights from the most recent album, the soulful "Reach" and their new single at the time, "Spring Fever." All of this material reveals a band at the top of their game, but unlike the somewhat sterilized sound of the studio recordings, these songs are more immediate and compelling here. The rhythm section, which included bassist Lance Hoppen and drummers Wells Kelly and Jerry Marotta, is far more expressive and propulsive in live performance. This thoroughly enhances the melodic and dynamic guitar work of Hall and Hoppen, not to mention the complex vocal arrangements, which are delivered by all with outstanding flair.
Possibly to seize the opportunity of such an intimate setting, Orleans takes a quieter more introspective turn with "Time Passes On," one of the loveliest songs from their breakthrough album two years prior. This serves as the perfect prelude to "Dance With Me," before wrapping things up with the bluesy grooves of Albert King's "Call My Job." A showcase for the guitar prowess of Hoppen and Hall, this is another impressive performance, featuring plenty of high energy guitar solos, ending this intimate performance on a rockin' note.
Included as an outtake at the end of this show is the humorous reggae number, "Howdy Tanky," which the band played earlier in the show but was not recorded in its entirety.