Decades later, the pleasure of America remains

Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, February 19, 2022

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

During their set, America's Gerry Beckley described the act's early days, opening for sonic powerhouses, like Pink Floyd, but doing so with just a few acoustic guitars. To British classic rock fans, these Americans may have come off severely unarmed. However, 50-plus years later, fans filled the historic Ryman Auditorium specifically to hear those acoustic guitars, matched with wonderfully harmonized vocals. And they weren't disappointed.

The two remaining original members (which included Beckley's partner, Dewey Bunnell), opened with "Tin Man," closed with "Sister Golden Hair" and encored with "A Horse With No Name." These three songs are emblematic of the group's quirky pop style. The lyrics to "A Horse With No Name" may still leave you scratching your head trying to figure out its deeper meaning, yet those vocals (the whole band, which includes three backing musicians, also add their voices to the mix) are consistently wonderful.

In fact, the group incorporated two vocal-intensive cover songs. One was "Eleanor Rigby," which made sense, as America's "Lonely People" is an answer song to that sadly beautiful Beatles tune. The other cover was "California Dreamin'," a hit for The Mamas & the Papas, which sounded like an endless summer in America's capable hands.

Along with the big hits, America also played some lesser-known songs. Beckley jokingly back announced one titled "Greenhouse" as "a rock song about gardening." America spread a little SoCal love with both "Hollywood" and "Ventura Highway." The group is best known for its soft approach to rock and roll, but "Sandman," which was accompanied by video footage of Vietnam and protests of that war, was especially guitar-y and psychedelic.

The 21-song set amounted to a career overview. Even some of the group's lesser- known hits and album cuts were memorable, though. So, while many other acts mined similar sonic territory during the '70s, few had as much success (both commercially and critically) as did America. It was a true pleasure hearing many of these old AM radio staples again, sung by a couple of guys that still enjoy singing them.


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