America at Stafford Centre, 8/10/2013
Something about the '70s folk-rock band America reminds me of the happier parts of my childhood. I remember sitting on the green shag carpet in our house, listening quietly to my dad pluck away at the notes to "A Horse With No Name," and feeling a comfort that was hard to come by during that time.
Gone was the tumultuous storm that had become life; there was a total calm while he pulled the string to create each note. We were just there, in the moment, the two of us, and there was a silent understanding of each other. America's music was my security blanket, and in those moments, I wished the music would never stop.
It's still kind of that way with old folk-rock. I've grown to be a classic-rock junkie, thanks in part to those memories of the green shag under my feet and the quiet notes of an acoustic guitar ringing out through the air, and folk music is the ultimate for me. It's an instant opiate; if some old harmonious folk song comes on, I'm immediately soothed, despite being well past my adolescence.
So America is one of those bands that holds some pretty special memories for me, and that fact alone made me a bit wary of reviewing them. I didn't want that idea of them crushed by some shoddy throwback concert or some aging pipes, and I wasn't sure what the case would be.
Really, I had nothing to worry about. America's concert at the Stafford Centre Saturday night didn't let that folk-loving sweet-tooth down.
From the moment that quintet hit the stage with their 1974 hit "Tin Man," amid a glowing slideshow that documented the group's progression during the '70s and '80s, it was apparent that nothing but the songs is at throwback status . Even after 43 years together, playing 100-plus shows a year, these guys are still touting the original lineup -- minus late co-founder Dan Peek, who left the group in 1977 and died in 2011 -- the original harmonies, and dual front men Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell's unique vocals. I was honestly kind of shocked. I hadn't expected to hear such a strong performance right out of the box, but these guys were killing it.
Four decades be damned, Beckley and Bunnell can still harmonize with the best of 'em. With the crowd waving their glow sticks in lieu of lighters -- the Stafford Centre is way too much of a theater setting for lighters, and this mature crowd was content sans flames -- the band literally ran through a set list of hits that spanned the entire length of their catalog. Nothing was off limits, so it was total memory lane status.
The great thing about America is that it's easy to forget just how many hits these guys really have had over the years; their career is so enduring that when listening to them live, it's a lot like rediscovering some old treasured bit of nostalgia that's been buried underneath a mountain of dusty bins.
Each song is familiar and comfortable, but it piques the senses as the words start to flow back once the floodgates of memories are open. Every song seemed to elicit the response of, "Oh shit! I forgot they sang this," from not only myself, but the entire length of my row. It was kind of cool to see how eyes would light up as the hits kept coming.