It was a dark and stormy night in Reno, Nevada (It really was)…
“That’s their song too?”
I said that a lot that night. Yes, I admit it. I was never a big America fan. But after I saw their show last weekend, they pulled me in a little closer. It’s not that I ever disliked them. I just didn’t know they wrote so many great songs. Songs I grew up thinking were The Eagles, Crosby, Still and Nash, or some other vocal group. Songs like Ventura Highway, Tin Man, and Sister Golden Hair. My bad! Boy did I miss the boat.
It was a sold out show in the Grand Sierra Resorts 2,700 seat Grand Theatre for the 70’s / 80’s iconic band. Whether you think of them as pop rock, folk rock, acoustic rock, or just classic rock – they gave a great performance. The whole band was having fun, and Dewey and Gerry were interacting with the audience all night.
Founding members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell still lead the charge in all ways. Filling out the band are Rich Campbell on bass and vocals and a 15 year member of the band (he played a great bass solo in Here), drummer Ryland Steen formerly of Reel Big Fish, and Bill Worrell on guitars, banjo, keyboards, and backing vocals. Dan Peek, the other founding member, left the band in 1977 and passed away of illness in 2011.
The show started with a short slideshow of vintage band photographs accompanied by a string ensemble that led into Tin Man with Dewey on vocals and Gerry on keyboards. Throughout the show the giant screen behind the band displayed either visually stimulating graphics, old photographs and films (mostly of the band), or America logos.
The vocals and harmonies were great, as was the entire performance. The only down side of the sound was that the vocals sounded over driven (distorted) at times. It would also have been nice if they worked up longer ‘live’ renditions of some of their songs. I thought too many of them were 3 minute songs that could have gotten the crowd excited if they had extended versions.
As I eluded to at the top of this review, I was surprised at how many of their songs I knew. They wrote a lot of great songs in their day, most of which have a very optimistic nature about them. Very positive with a peace and love, ‘flower power’ vibe to them.
Some songs missed the mark for me though. As wonderful as their popular hits are to hear, some songs have a very contrived and dated sound to them. That could be on me due to not being familiar with their catalog of songs, plus they are 40-ish year old songs, so I guess that is to be expected. They definitely have a knack for writing great vocal hooks that stick in your head.
Between songs they were still entertaining: sharing stories of growing up in London in the late 60’s as military kids and high school students. They talked about being able to see live shows there by Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Rod Stewart.
Their pre-encore closer was their huge hit, Sister Golden Hair which got everybody on their feet (but it was still only about 3 minutes long). After their exit they returned and commented that they realized they had forgotten one, and they played Horse With No Name – their first and most successful hit song.
Our merch man in the lobby has a new CD about to ‘drop’, as the kids say these days. Back in my day, that meant something else.
– Gerry Beckley
To see HD pictures, click here.
– Tin Man
– You Can Do Magic
– Don’t Cross The River
– Daisy Jane
– I Need You
– Ventura Highway
– Woodstock (Joni Mitchell)
– Cornwall Blank / Hollywood
– The Boarder
– Green Monkey
– Woman Tonight
– Only In Your Heart
– California Dreaming (Mamas & Papas)
– Lonely People
– Sister Golden Hair
– Horse With No Name