Classic Rock at its best is the way I’d describe the Christopher Cross and America concert at The American Music Theater on Sunday, July 26th. The 1600 seat theater has fine acoustics and advanced video imaging and lighting. It appeared to be a sell out. The audience was varied tending to be more of the flower child generation. If you go to The America Music Theater, park either across the street in the mall parking lot or in the lot next to the theater complex. The main lot is congested with vague traffic patterns that leads to gridlock.
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Christopher Cross was a dominate force in the early 80’s winning 3 Grammy Awards and 1 Oscar for songs like: "Sailing," "Ride Like The Wind," "I Really Don’t Know Anymore" and "Arthur’s Theme." He is a friend of Tina Faye, and is the Christopher Cross Liz Lemon marries in the last episode.
Chris is an accomplished guitarist and his band and back-up singers were top notch. The horn is an integral part of his music and the horn player was exceptional. Chris performed 10 or so songs starting with "No Time For Talk." His unusual high voice is as it was when he recorded his hits. The audience reaction to "Sailing" and "I Really Don’t Know Anymore," were only eclipsed by their standing ovations for "Arthur’s Theme" and "Ride Like The Wind." His video show for “Arthur’s Theme” was a heartfelt tribute to the very ill Dudley Moore. He closed with his most popular song “Ride Like Wind” which was off of his multi-platinum album, Christoper Cross. The song is a summer favorite, a top down convertible sound. The audience was up singing and the video playing had the wind blowing in our hair. Chris is a long time friend of America. He has sung back-up on a couple of America albums. He continues to tour, writes music for movies and TV, and will release a new album late fall.
Pulitzer Prize winner and Boston Globe columnist Thomas Farragher and I share one guilty pleasure, America. As he says ‘I love them. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.’ They are the high priests of soft rock, the old laurel canyon sound. America has released 16 studio albums, 4 live albums and 7 compilation albums. They have many professional accomplishments, including 5 number one singles, 6 platinum albums along with a Grammy Award. George Martin, one of the greatest producers of all time, produced many of their most successful albums.
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Since last year, two members of the touring band have retired, Michael Woods (lead guitar) and Willie Laecox (drums). Jeff Worrell (lead guitar,banjo,keys) replaced Michael and Ryland Steen (Drums) replaced Willie. Jeff is a well known studio musician and Ryland has played with Reel Big Fish and Maroon 5. The new members have contributed additional energy and a little different feel to the live performance, all good. Dan Peek, an original member, who left the band in the mid-seventies passed away in 2011. He attained success as a Christian Artist.
America took the stage and “Tin Man” was the start of the journey through 44 years of music. Dewey’s voice is clear and strong, the harmony striking and the band very tight. The response was immediate. What you get at America concerts is a lot folks who sing along. Not loud enough to bother, but a heartfelt tribute to the songs and their place in folks’ lives.
America performed 20 songs. America does mix up the set list and “Three Roses” and “Only In Your Heart” are songs that cycled on and off. From their newest release, Back Pages, they performed “Till I Hear It From You” by Gin Blossoms and “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell. Gerry Beckley’s take on the Gin Blossoms song is done with true love for this great tune. The way he ends the song with that wail, long and lovely, has to give the Gin Blossoms a smile. During the 5th song “Riverside” we lost power for about 3/5 minutes The band joked we are an acoustic band, Ha!! They also joked they needed extra security tonight to prevent another Air Supply type riot.
The set list was:
You Can Do Magic
Don’t Cross The River
I Need You
Til I Hear It From You
Only In Your Heart
Sister Golden Hair
A Horse With No Name
For the most part, America is a folk rock band that makes songs that are about love, friendships and just making our ways through the difficulties that life presents. Love songs like “I Need You” are favorites at weddings around the world. Once in awhile they’ll make a political statement with a song like ”Sandman.” A tune accompanied by a video about the war in Vietnam.
Over the years, I’ve attended at least 15 of their concerts, and this one was one of the best. It is evident they still love performing. The audience can feel their joy, their exuberance, their passion for the music. They do make fun of themselves, ‘we play classics not oldies.’
They close with their most famous piece, “A Horse With No Name.” Folks leave their seats and go down to the stage. I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find more than a few folks who do not sing along to a song that harkens back to Woodstock, to Haight-Ashbury, to a time of hope and change.
If you are looking for a memorable night of Classic Rock, go see America. They will not disappoint. You’ll leave with a spring in your step, a smile on your face and a journey through a musical career of some 40 plus years.
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