Photos: ©DOT HOPKINS
Growing up in the 70s, there were certain bands whose music became indelibly imprinted in my mind and my soul. America was one such band. The rich harmonies of those classics like ‘Sister Golden Hair’ and ‘Ventura Highway’; lyrics and choruses that got stuck in my head. As a 12 year old girl, I used to wonder about those alligator lizards in the air and why nobody ever gave that poor horse a name. Forty-five years later and here I am asking those same old questions as I settle in to my seat at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall to finally see this band that had stirred my imagination so vividly in those formative years and it was an added bonus that another of my favourite artists was the support act on this bill. I felt blessed indeed.
Being a support act for an international artist touring the country can often be a thankless affair. Too many times you are forced to contend with less than perfect sound and various other issues which impede your performance. When Russell Morris opened for America at Hamer Hall on Wednesday night, there were no such issues and Russell was quick to acknowledge this when thanking the headlining act at the end of his set.
Kicking off with ‘Black Dog Blues’, Russell and his band played a good mix of his more recent blues material including songs like ‘Birdsville’ and ‘Sharkmouth’ as well as his much-loved classic hits like ‘Wings of An Eagle’, ‘Rachel’, ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘Sweet, Sweet Love’.
Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Buckley are the frontline of America these days but their superb harmonies and guitars are supported by a first-class band of musicians, guitarist Andy Barr, Rich Campbell on bass and drummer Ryland Steen.
America’s set opened with the instrumental ‘Miniature’ from their album ‘Holiday’, leading into one of the band’s early classics ‘Tin Man’ from the same album and then picking up the pace with another favourite, ‘Magic’.
They took us along that now familiar ‘Ventura Highway’ of their classic hits like ‘I Need You’, ‘Sandman’, ‘Woman Tonight’ and more but we also got to hear some of the album tracks that were perhaps a little more obscure, at least to those who are only familiar with the radio hits. The playlist was a soundtrack that those of us who grew up in that time could relate to and all played before a backdrop of projections that gave an added dimension to the songs, as with the footage of the Vietnam War for ‘Sandman’.
One thing that stood out to me was the seamless way the set flowed, as the band moved from song to song but still maintaining just the right amount of banter and interaction with the audience to make everyone feel connected and when Gerry Beckley mentioned that his wife was from Melbourne, it brought cheers from the crowd. Aussies do love that kind of connection.
There were a couple of covers thrown in. ‘California Dreaming’ which they said they have performed more often than any other song and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ paid homage to their friend and former collaborator, George Martin, who passed away last year. ‘Lonely People’ was a tribute to former member Dan Peek who was an important part of America in those early years, leaving the band in 1977 and sadly passing away in 2011. Peek was an original member of America.
One of the band’s biggest hits, ‘Sister Golden Hair’ closed the set but we were in for a big treat when the band returned for the encore as they invited a few ‘friends’ on stage to join them for a very special rendition of the song that has become their signature tune, ‘Horse With No Name’. Those friends included Russell Morris, much to the great delight of everyone in the room.
It was a perfect way to end the night, leaving the audience with more wonderful memories of an evening that already recaptured those precious memories of our youth and, in the process, created even more.
America continue their Australian tour tonight in Sydney. Full tour info and ticketing links below. Don’t miss it.
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2017. All rights reserved
With special Guest: Russell Morris
FRIDAY, 28 JULY 2017 – SYDNEY, NSW
DARLING HARBOUR THEATRE at ICC SYDNEY
Book at ticketek 132 849 or www.ticketek.com.au
SATURDAY, 29 JULY 2017 – CALOUNDRA, Qld
THE EVENTS CENTRE
Book at 07 5491 4240 or www.theeventscentre.com.au
SUNDAY, 30 JULY 2017 – GOLD COAST, Qld
BROADBEACH MUSIC FESTIVAL
* FREE SHOW *
WEDNESDAY, 2 AUGUST 2017 – WOLLONGONG, NSW
WIN ENTERTAINENT CENTRE
Book at Ticketmaster 136 100 or www.ticketmaster.com.au
THURSDAY, 3 AUGUST 2017 – CANBERRA, ACT
Book at Ticketek 132 849 or www.ticketek.com.au