America plays Tennessee Theatre

1970’s hit-makers rock K-Town

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, America was a hit-making machine.

The band, while achieving AM Radio Fame, got a lukewarm reception, at best, from music critics as it brought fans hits such as “A Horse With No Name,” “Sister Golden Hair,” and “You Can Do Magic.”

Many of their bigger-selling tunes landed on 70’s compilations like AM Gold.

As a child, I listened to the band’s work on the radio while riding in the car. But admittedly, I never really took the group all that seriously, and who would when one of their signature tunes, “A Horse With No Name,” was clearly a Neil Young rip off.

“Sister Golden Hair” was a standard on pop radio upon its release. It was a great tune but, quite frankly; it didn’t exactly fit into the typical pop rotation in a time when disco dominated the charts. It was released in 1975.

America took the stage in Knoxville on April 14 at the Tennessee Theatre before a sold-out house and the band played for nearly an hour-and-a-half and members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell owned the crowd as they took the audience down victory lane as they performed all of their classic hits and a few deep cuts that never found air time. Those tunes such as “Hollywood” and “Don’t Cross the River” proved to be the top performances of the show.

America’s career really took a positive turn when they joined forces with legendary producer Sir George Martin, who was a major creative force during his time with the Beatles.

Martin produced seven albums and America, judging from this show, enjoyed its most creative period.

America last went into the studio in 2007 and the result was Back Pages, an album of cover tunes that paid homage to the band’s influences. America paid tribute to the Mamas and the Papas, with a rendition of “California Dreamin’” and they also remembered the Fab Four with their version of “Eleanor Rigby.”

Former band member the late Dan Peek, who died in 2011, wrote “All the Lonely People,” as an answer to “Eleanor Rigby.” America performed that tune too.

The show was all that an America Fan could hope for. But “Sister Golden Hair” was a disappointment because Beckley simply can’t hit the high notes any more.

The group, however, must be doing something right because they can still pack concert halls after being together for nearly five decades. America still does at least 100 shows per year.

They claim to be a classic rock band. But the one thing that stuck out with this show was the fact that the crowd was made up of fans who enjoyed the group during its heyday.

As a veteran of many classic rock concerts I’ve seen shows by Paul McCartney, Young, AC/DC, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Boz Scaggs and others. Those concerts appealed to several generations as parents passed that music down.

Very few youngsters attended America’s sold-out date. Could it be that America was always a guilty pleasure? Or could it be that the band’s material is hopelessly dated?

Or could it just be that their MOR style doesn’t fit AOR or Classic Rock radio stations?

Whatever the case, the group’s recent show proved that America, while they may not end up in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they have their place in pop music history.

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