The Roots Report: America at Twin River

Okee dokee folks… “Fifty years was not in the plan, but as long as you keep coming we’ll keep playing,” exclaimed Dewey Bunnell of the band America last Friday night at Twin River Casino’s Event Center. America was started as a trio in England by the sons of American Air Force servicemen stationed in England — Bunnell, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek — in the late ’60s while they were still teenagers in high school. They quickly gained notoriety and soon were one of the bands that defined the sound of the early 1970s. Peek left the band in 1977 and passed away in 2011. America has been Bunnell and Beckley for most of their 50-year history.

A few songs into their 90-minute set, Gerry Beckly said, “We’re glad to be back in Rhode Island…we’re sorry it’s been a while since we’ve been here!” The show kicked off with one of their more popular hits, “Tin Man.” That was quickly followed by their 1982 hit, “You Can Do Magic.” The vocals were handed over to drummer Ryland Steen for “Don’t Cross The River.” Multi instrumentalist Steve Fekete added six-string banjo to the mix as well. He also showcased his talents on piano and acoustic guitar, but really demonstrated his playing prowess on electric guitar. Most of the concert consisted of the entire contents of History: America’s Greatest Hits with the exception of “Muskrat Love.” They played other selections from their early albums such as “Riverside” and “Here,” in addition to later album cuts like “The Border” and their #1 hit in Italy, “Survival” about which they commented, “Not so big here!” They mentioned that “Every year we like to dredge up a song from an obscure album to play at a show” and that song this time around was “Greenhouse” from the Hourglass album. They dedicated the song “Lonely People” to the song’s writer, Dan Peek as it, coincidentally, was his birthday on November 1. America did include two covers in their set: “California Dreaming,” which Dewey expressed they wished they had written, and “Eleanor Rigby” in a nod to Sir George Martin who produced many of their albums. “Sister Golden Hair” ended the show, but the crowd knew they had left out one of their biggest hits, “A Horse With No Name.” They corrected this by performing it as the encore.

Dewey and Gerry told the crowd that they have been playing over 100 dates a year for the past 50 years. They still sound great after all this time. They have endured cultural changes and shifts in musical taste and are still going strong with no plans to slow down anytime soon. Their shows are always memorable and enjoyable and as many times as I have seen them over the past 45 years, I have never grown tired of their music. The show at Twin River featured a large screen behind the band that showed videos and photos from their 50-year past as well as pertinent films and photos to match songs. This was all curated by the group’s bass player, Rich Campbell. Bunnell and Beckley took the time toward the end of the show to thank all the people, by name and position, on their crew and in the backing band. You can usually tell the devotion to a band by the after show line at the merch table — it was quite long. If those are like me, they have been fans for most of their lives and will continue to be fans far into the future. Hopefully they keep playing because we will keep coming back!             

That’s it for now. I have posted photos from the America show at Twin River on the Motif Facebook page. Thanks for reading.

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