After the band America performed their 1972 hit "Ventura Highway" at the Chumash Casino Resort last Thursday night, they noted that it was "a good part of the country to be singing that one." That it was, indeed!
The core of today's America is original members Dewey Bunnell (vocals and guitar) and Gerry Beckley (vocals, guitar and keyboard); the other original band member, Dan Peek, left the lineup in 1977 and passed away in 2011.
Interestingly, America formed in England while their fathers were there as Air Force personnel, although Bunnell noted that his father was also stationed for a time at Vandenberg. The band lineup at the Chumash Casino was rounded out by Rich Campbell (bass), Ryland Steen (drums) and Bill Worrell (guitar), who at times stole the show with his smokin' fretwork.
The band played a number of their other decades-old soft rockin' hits, including "Tin Man," their '80s comeback "You Can Do Magic," "Lonely People," "Sister Golden Hair," "I Need You" and, of course, "A Horse with No Name," which had Jeff Foskett from The Beach Boys joining in.
The band also showed their harder side with some lesser-known songs like "Green Monkey," which they claimed had Worrell playing note-for-note what Joe Walsh did when it was recorded back in 1973. Another was "Hollywood," which had behind-the-stage footage of the town and of the band receiving their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After this song, Beckley joked, "That was dangerously close to jamming!"
They also played a couple of songs — Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" and the Gin Blossoms' "Till I Hear It From You" — from their latest album, Back Pages, which they described as "a group of songs we wish we had written." Another cool cover was "California Dreamin" by The Mamas & The Papas, which they said they have been playing since they were teenagers in a high school band that preceded America.
Bunnell's voice still sounds pretty much like it did way back when. Beckley's voice has changed since the band's heyday, and took a little while to get used to, but the spirit of his songs is still there.
America is celebrating its 45th year, and it's clear that their songs from yesteryear still resonated with the Chumash crowd.
You Can Do Magic
Don't Cross the River
I Need You
Woodstock (Joni Mitchell song)
Till I Hear It From You (Gin Blossoms song)
Only in Your Heart
California Dreamin' (The Mamas & The Papas song)
Sister Golden Hair
A Horse with No Name
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.