Led by Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, the band bathed a sold-out Meijer Gardens crowd in nostalgia on Wednesday with a bevy of familiar hits. The review, photo gallery and set list.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY, SET LIST
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Singer-songwriter Dewey Bunnell of America was honest with the capacity crowd at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park amphitheater on Wednesday night.
“We’re doing the legal limit of ’70s music here tonight,” he said of the song lineup presented by his band, which also features co-founder Gerry Beckley.
Born on the cusp of that decade, America’s music was dominant throughout, winning Grammy Awards and topping radio charts.
And they made good on their word through 21 songs and 94 minutes of acoustic-driven harmonies, bathed with some nostalgic memories.
The players opened with “Tin Man,” then jumped to the 1980s briefly with the ear-grabbing “You Can Do Magic,” before settling comfortably back a decade with hits like “Don’t Cross the River” and Beckley’s lead vocals and keyboard touch on the ballad “Daisy Jane.”
“We’ve been doin’ that one since high school, and that’s a long time ago,” remarked Bunnell, 70.
Augmented by three additional band members, the duo got a lift from multi-instrumentalist Steve Fekete, who played guitar, banjo and keyboards, bassist Richard Campbell and drummer Ryland Steen.
Supportive video added depth to the evening, including photos from the band’s early days, and the sun, surf and California road scenes during the classic “Ventura Highway.”
There was more of that during their cover of “California Dreamin’.” “I wish we wrote that one,” mused Beckley.
America’s salute to its former record producer George Martin, who led them through seven straight albums, came with their cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” (Martin, of course, also produced the Beatles).
FROM REFLECTIVE LYRICS TO FULL-FLEDGED SING-ALONGS
An audible sigh of recognition rose from the crowd when Beckley, again at the keyboard, hit the opening notes of another of his love ballads, “I Need You.” It was a hit song from the band’s 1972 self-titled debut album.
During the song, a lone couple stood in the middle of the amphitheater and danced right at their seats.
The night’s obscure America song: “Greenhouse,” a rocker from their little known album, “Hourglass.”
As the musical path meandered, another audible sigh came with “Lonely People,” Beckley adding harmonica as well as keys for the song to which the audience readily sang along.
“Sandman,” meanwhile, served as a pace-changing tour-de-force: Its reflective lyrics came over alternating video of the Vietnam War action images and war protestors, as well as other 1960s scenes.
The set-ending send-off was a complete opposite: “Sister Golden Hair,” the mix of jangly guitar and sing-along “bop-she-boo’s” which carry the harmonies and adds to the fun.
Called back for an encore, again Bunnell dead-panned: “It shows we’re getting old. We forgot a song, apparently.”
That was the signature “A Horse With No Name,” the rhythmic, poetic mantra with primarily just two chords. But the band and its onlookers loved it, seeing images of horses in a desert and joining in on the “na-na-na’s” at the song concludes.
Last year, America’s Meijer Gardens concert was canceled by rain, making this show especially satisfying.
The show opened with singer-songwriter Rachel Brooke. Alone on stage with her guitar, the Michigan native’s classic country-Americana spun out in songs such as “Great Mistake” and “The Loneliness in Me.” She also treated the crowd with her yodel-ready version of Hank Williams Sr.’s legendary “Lovesick Blues.”
Brooke also will perform with her band on Aug. 11 for GRAM on the Green at the Grand Rapids Arts Museum.
NEXT UP AT MEIJER GARDENS: Arturo Sandoval and Grand Rapids Symphony at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday). Tickets, $55, available online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: America, Rachel Brooke at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek
1. Tin Man
2. You Can Do Magic
3. Don’t Cross the River
4. Daisy Jane
6. I Need You
8. Ventura Highway
10. Eleanor Rigby (Beatles cover)
11. Conwall Blank/Hollywood
13. The Border
15. Woman Tonight
16. Only In Your Heart
17. California Dreamin’ (Mamas & Pappas cover)
18. Lonely People
20. Sister Golden Hair
21. Horse With No Name
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