Remember tooling through the neighborhood in your friend’s Camaro, your father’s Ford station wagon or maybe it was a Mustang GT? A few chords into Pablo Cruise’s “Worlds Away” at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on Sunday and you'll be back in that front seat, in a T-shirt donning the pop-rock band’s iconic palm-tree-and-sun logo cranking up the volume on the under-dash eight-track player.
The Bay Area band ruled the 1970s airwaves with a string of catchy jazz- and soul-inflected hits, including “Whatcha Gonna Do?,” and “Love Will Find a Way,” as did other smooth chart-toppers of the era including Little River Band (“Lady”), Christopher Cross (“Sailing”) and Journey (“Don’t Stop Believin”).
“There was a lot of camaraderie,” recalls keyboardist and vocalist Cory Lerios, one of three of Pablo Cruise’s original members, about the relationship between the bands that defined the easy-going California genre known as yacht rock. “The music is positive, affirming. It was a magic time.”
The musicians capture that time right from the concert’s opening — with nostalgic video clips including one documenting their television introduction on “The Merv Griffin Show” and another of fan Will Ferrell sporting the band’s decal emblem on a maroon-sleeved baseball shirt in the 2008 summer buddy movie “Step Brothers.”
Lerios performs the career rundown alongside guitarist and lead vocalist David Jenkins and drummer Stephen Price, with new members Larry Antonio playing bass and Robbie Wyckoff on percussion (Pablo Cruise’s first bassist, Bud Cockrell, died in 2010). After seven albums and years on the road, the high-school classmates opted in the mid-'80s for an extended hiatus, exploring other related and unrelated pursuits. Whereas Jenkins continued to perform, Lerios has since built a second career writing themes and underscores for television shows — fittingly for some 300 episodes of “Baywatch” — and Price emerged as a pioneer in the e-learning industry.
After jamming at Price’s wedding in 2004, Pablo Cruise drifted back on course and released the band’s first live album, realizing that its music, with its buoyant vibe and silky harmonies, still resonated with fans.
“Back then,” Lerios, 68, says of the group’s heyday, “it was kind of a blur. Now we can really enjoy, even poke fun at, ourselves.” During the concert, he teases the audience to abide by one rule: to please not rush the stage.
With momentum building toward the end of the set, escalating into Pablo Cruise’s heavy groove music, it could be challenging not to. “We’re there to make people happy," Lerios says, "to spread joy."
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WHAT Pablo Cruise
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Sunday, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 E. Main St.
INFO $39-$59; 631-207-1313, patchoguetheatre.org