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Cornelia crowd gets connection with Little River Band
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If you listened to pop music in the 1970s and 1980s, you've likely heard the smooth sounds of Little River Band.

During the years between 1976 and 1982, Little River Band appeared on the charts with top-10 U.S. singles - the only group at the time to do so for six consecutive years.

The Australian-born band got a lot of airplay with hits like "Cool Change," "Reminiscing" and "Lady."

More than 30 years since its inception, the band still keeps busy touring the U.S. and continues to produce albums.

"Our bread and butter is doing live shows like we're going to do in Cornelia. People still want to hear this music, they still enjoy the nostalgia of it, but they also enjoy the quality of it," said lead singer and bass player Wayne Nelson, who describes the band's sound as "adult rock."

Little River Band will perform at the Habersham Homecoming Celebration at 7 p.m. Friday on the lawn of Habersham Bank in Cornelia, with a fireworks show at dusk following the concert.

The celebration, in its 23rd year, usually is host to country acts, but organizers said they moved in a different direction for this year.

"All of our response has been really great. Little River Band had a lot of great hits, so a lot of people know who they are and a lot of people grew up listening to them," said Glenda Smith, an organizer for the event.

Smith said families come back each year to take in the concert and fireworks show.

"We have people call and write letters of appreciation and this is just something that the whole community looks forward to," she said.

Nelson said a lot has changed in the years the band has been performing.

"I think there was a lot more expectation for new music back then, because it's part of your career - you play the hits, but you keep playing new stuff because, of course, your next CD is coming out, or it just came out, and you're there to promote it," he said.

"You're selling something. And I honestly think there's more fun now in that we're not really selling something other than the live show."

Nelson said today's audiences are different, too.

"It's geared to a whole range of ages now, from grandparents down to teenagers and less, who like the music because their parents or their grandparents played it and passed it on," he said.

Nelson said one of his favorite songs to perform is "Take it Easy on Me."

"My first real contribution to arrangements with the band was to try to make more of that song than what we were doing in rehearsal," he said.

After Nelson helped with the arrangement, the result was a slow-building song beginning with piano that grew with each verse.

"You can't miss with a song like ‘Cool Change.' It's such an emotional song every night you play it. It is hard to choose what's the favorite, there's no question about that," he said.

"With the heart of the song still intact, we believe in them. We perform them rather than just playing them," Nelson said. "We love to connect with the audience and let that energy build throughout the show. There are a lot of memories attached to these songs and we're going to scratch their memory banks. We're going to make them relive their high school prom."

After releasing a Christmas album in 2007, the band took a break from recording, but will return to the studio in 2009 to begin working on a new CD to commemorate its 35th anniversary.