I owned a vinyl copy of the album "History: America's Greatest Hits" when I was a teenager and I played it until it wore out and I had to buy another. America's music stayed with me throughout the years - their catchy melodies and their tight harmonies resonated with my young musical tastes. But I never saw them in concert. Until Friday night in Waukegan when they played a full house at the Genesee Theatre.
America was formed in 1970 by the trio of Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley - the sons of US Air Force personnel serving in London. Peek is now gone (he passed away in 2011), but Bunnell and Beckley continue the tradition, performing over 100 shows a year for the past 50 years. This is an impressive feat for anyone, but particularly for artists approaching their seventh decade.
The years have not diminished their vocal prowess nor their enthusiasm for performing. The duo delighted the crowd, playing their hits and mixing in a few deep tracks from earlier albums. They engaged the audience and the audience appreciated it.
The evening was improved by having the Buckinghams as a warmup act. This Chicago act quickly rose to fame in the late 1960s and just as quickly faded from the charts. On this night, they played their string of hits, such as “Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)”, “Don’t You Care”, and their #1 single “Kind of a Drag”.
America opened with "Tin Man" - a big hit from 1974, which immediately fired up the audience. It seemed a foregone conclusion they would close with their biggest hit - "A Horse with No Name". In between, were the other classics, such as "Sister Golden Hair", "Lonely People", and "Ventura Highway" (my personal favourite). They even included a couple of covers: The Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'" and The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", which they announced as a tribute to George Martin, who produced both The Beatles and America.
One came away with the feeling that the remaining duo still very much enjoys playing their music for an appreciative audience. I know I enjoyed it when they did.