Having formed as an acoustic trio together with the late Dan Peek in the U.K. back in 1969, the founding members of America, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, have covered a lot of ground. As I approached Hamer Hall, I couldn’t see any alligator lizards in the air but I did see a sizeable number of silver foxes.
The opening act for the night was local legend Russell Morris and his band who played an electrifying set to warm the hearts and memories of the audience. Playing songs from his recent acclaimed releases Sharkmouth and Van Diemen’s Land, the former King of Pop didn’t shy away from the era that made him a household name and did not disappoint the near capacity crowd who were all in early to make a night of it. I hadn’t realised how heavily influenced by America Morris really was until I heard him launch into On the Wings of an Eagle and Sweet Sweet Love. Together with a spirited cover of It’s All Over Now Baby Blue which was more Graham Bonnet than Bob Dylan, Morris wowed the crowd with his classics Rachel and of course The Real Thing. His voice was fantastic, sounded as good as it did on those early recordings and his band was top notch.
America are frequent touring visitors to our shores and this is most probably influenced by the fact that Beckley’s wife is Australian, from Melbourne he specified during the show. They have been stalwarts of the live circuit throughout their 47 plus year career and it’s clear having seen them here tonight, that is where they shine as people, friends, songwriters and musicians. The feedback is instant, the joy in their performance is catching.
Having famously worked with Sir George Martin as producer for 7 of their albums who helped shape them into the heroes of the soft rock genre by putting the focus on their acoustic guitar playing and layered harmonies, the hits just kept on coming. From the opening instrumental Miniature and back drop of a big screen band photo montage, into Tin Man, You Can Do Magic and Daisy Jane along with the covers that they were famous for in Eleanor Rigby and California Dreaming, they knew how to make an instant connection with their audience. The way these guys chatted on stage telling stories about growing up as transplanted American teens with military fathers living on the base, they seemed like your old friends that you’d love to ask over for dinner and a yarn. They also showed that they knew how to rock. Beckley’s lead playing was exceptional which was something I hadn’t realised until seeing them live, particularly on the song Here which built steadily to a prog rock crescendo. The band was a tight unit – solid harmonies and spirited playing that supported the 2 frontmen perfectly. Young guitarist Andy Barr who has been touring with them for the last couple of years was a highlight with his versatility in style. It was actually very surprising that as a casual listener through the years and having never seen them play live before, how very familiar I was with the bulk of the material on the set list. For anyone born pre 1970, these songs are intrinsically planted in the brain somehow and every word can be recalled by the trigger of any opening chord. Classics such as Lonely People and Sandman were all leading up to the big ones – Sister Golden Hair and Horse With No Name. Sister Golden Hair was my personal highlight with that distinctive George Harrison-esque guitar lick and the abundant harmonies, it truly is a pop rock masterpiece.
America are on tour in Australia in July/August with remaining dates as follows:
FRIDAY, 28 JULY 2017
DARLING HARBOUR THEATRE at ICC SYDNEY
Book at ticketek 132 849 or www.ticketek.com.au
SATURDAY, 29 JULY 2017
THE EVENTS CENTRE
Book at 07 5491 4240 or www.theeventscentre.com.au
SUNDAY, 30 JULY 2017
BROADBEACH MUSIC FESTIVAL
GOLD COAST, Qld
* FREE SHOW *
WEDNESDAY, 2 AUGUST 2017
WIN ENTERTAINENT CENTRE
Book at Ticketmaster 136 100 or www.ticketmaster.com.au
THURSDAY, 3 AUGUST 2017
Book at Ticketek 132 849 or www.ticketek.com.au