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Planning to come to tonight's Pablo Cruise performance at River Rhythms? Better bring a beach blanket.

The pop-rock band is known for its California sound, music to evoke the sun and the surf, says Cory Lerios, keyboard player and vocalist.

But that's not all. Lerios, who's also had a long career scoring music for television and movies, adds something extra to the set list.

"I wrote the theme for 'Baywatch' so we do that in the show," he said.

Pablo Cruise leads off the first River Rhythms concert of the summer. It's a return trip to Albany for the group, which played the annual concert series in 2009.

Fans can expect a different look to Pablo Cruise at this show, Lerios said.

The trio of founding members (Lerios, lead vocalist-guitarist David Jenkins and drummer Steve Price) have been joined by bassist Larry Antonino and new vocalist Robbie Wyckoff.

"Robbie was on the road with the Roger Waters tour for six years," Lerios said. "Anyone that's seen Pablo Cruise in the past will definitely take notice of his presence on stage."

Pablo Cruise formed in 1973, after Lerios, Jenkins and Price left the San Francisco rock band Stoneground. They were joined by bassist Bud Cockrell, who quit the group in 1977.

Fans often ask how the band got its name, Lerios said.

Pablo Cruise was a nickname Lerios gave a good friend from college. Lerios liked the nickname so much that it was one of many ideas thrown into the hat when the time came to name the band.

The group played mostly local shows around the Bay Area and eventually signed with A&M Records in 1975.

"We released seven studio albums, and each record gained momentum," Lerios said.

The first two albums, a self-titled record and "Lifeline," sold pretty well. The third album "A Place in the Sun," led by the hit single "Whatcha Gonna Do?" helped Pablo Cruise break out into the national scene, he said. It went double platinum.

The group had five hit singles reach the top 25 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart from 1973-1985.

That final year, members of Pablo Cruise left the band to pursue other projects.

"The band just sort of laid down the sword, and we weren't progressing the way we wanted," Lerios said.

Lerios, who wrote most of the band's songs with Jenkins, started writing and composing music for television and movies.

Jenkins joined the country rock band Southern Pacific with members of The Doobie Brothers and Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lerios said.

Steve Price's wedding in 2005 was a reunion for the three to perform together again, which provided a spark. After 20 years away, Pablo Cruise was ready to rock again.

"There's always been that demand out there, (people) wanting to see Pablo Cruise. They would write emails and ask what happened to you guys?" Lerios said.

Ferrell link

In 2008, a publicist contacted Lerios to inform him that he had seen Will Ferrell wearing a Pablo Cruise jersey shirt in a preview of the 2008 comedy "Step Brothers." Lerios already knew, because he had approved it.

"When I approved it, I didn't realize he was going to be wearing it the first ten minutes of the movie. It was just a big ad for Pablo Cruise," he said.

The shirt triggered a number of interviews for the band. Lerios said it was as if the group had released a new album. 

They were invited to play at the premiere of the movie, where Ferrell and John C. Reilly got up on stage and jammed with them.

"It's kind of a popular piece of merchandise when we go out on the road," Lerios said.

The guys of Pablo Cruise now perform about 25 shows a year, beginning in summer. Thursday night's concert is the first on the tour.

Lerios said playing their hits is still fun for him, but performing with the core of Pablo Cruise is his motivation.

"It's just a blessing to be able to play with the same guys you started out with pretty much since high school," Lerios said.

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