St. George Theater, Staten Island, NY

St. George Theater, Staten Island, NY 2/24/2018
by Rebecca Wolf

For the past 48 years, the band America has been touring America, and the world, with their unique folk/soft rock sound. During this time they have released 18 studio albums. The band was originally formed in London in 1970, by Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek, the teenage sons of US Air Force personnel stationed in London.  Wanting to assure they were recognized as Americans, they dubbed themselves “America”. In 1972 the band relocated to LA, after the success of their first album. While Dan Peek left the band in 1977, and various members have come and gone over the years, Burnell and Beckley have remained together for over 4 decades.

There is a distinct connection between the name of the band, America, and the music they’ve created. Their melodies and lyrics evoke an All-American feeling, and there’s a light, relaxed, breeziness to most of their songs. When you listen to “Ventura Highway” you envision yourself riding down that highway with the warm breeze blowing through your hair, and from the first guitar strums of “A Horse With No Name”, you feel yourself crossing the desert along with them.

Those of us who love classic rock, attend our favorite 70s-80s concerts not only because we love the music but because we love that the songs bring back precious childhood memories. When we attend concerts we often expect the songs to sound the same as how we’ve heard them for the past 40 years. However, decades later artists’ voices have frequently changed. People often discuss whether a singer sounds “like they used to” or can reach the same notes. However, if you love an artist’s music being at a venue with the artist and feeling their spirit, sharing the energy with the crowd, and hearing the music live, even if it doesn’t sound the same, can still be an exciting, wonderful experience.  Seeing “America” at the exquisite St. George Theater was one of those experiences. 

The show opened up with a 1974 #4 hit “Tin Man”, followed by the band’s 1982 song, “You Can Do Magic”, the band’s first major success after 7 years.  The show covered all of America’s hits, two covers, and a few deeper cuts, including “Driving”, from their 2015 studio album. Bunnell and Beckley obviously enjoy performing, enjoy the energy of the audience and enjoy each other. They share a connection as well, with the 3 additional band members,  Richard Cambell, (their skilled bass player/vocals for 15 yrs), Ryland Steen (drums, percussion) and Andy Barr (guitar, banjo, keyboards, backing vocals). Bunnell and Beckey’s happiness is infectious and Steen and Barr (the band’s millennials) display a level of energy and skill that adds a flavor of jamming and newness to the band. The packed house enthusiastically sang along to all of the hits, including the fan favorite encore, “A Horse With No Name.”  If you are looking for 2 hours of feel-good, nostalgic music, by the original members of one of the greatest 70s folk/soft rock bands, “America” is where you will find this.

Set List:        
Tin Man     
You Can Do Magic 
Don’t Cross the River     
Daisy Jane
I Need You
Ventura Highway
Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
Cornwall Blank/ Hollywood
The Border
Woman Tonight
Only in Your Heart
California Dreamin’ (The Mamas & the Papas)
Lonely People
Sister Golden Hair

A Horse With No Name
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