When news came through that I would have the opportunity to get along to see the Grammy award winning America, consisting of original co-founders Gerry Beckley and Dewey Burnell, I was beyond excited. After all, this was formative music we were talking about…the lyrics to songs like 'Sister Golden Hair’, 'Sandman' and 'Ventura Highway' are seared into the memory cells and despite getting on in years and apt to forget the simplest things, all I need to hear is the opening chords of any of these songs and the lyrics involuntarily come flooding back. I worked out tonight I've been waiting exactly 40 years and one month to finally see this band, having been gifted the George Martin produced ‘History - America's Greatest Hits' from an enlightened uncle who owned ‘Fusion’ Records back in the day. In the past, something had always conspired against the stars aligning but tonight I was actually going! Scarcely believing my luck, like a good boy scout I stowed a Sharpie and the CD cover of the same album in my bag, prepared for any eventuality.


Arriving at St Kilda's gorgeous Palais Theatre on a cold and blustery Melbourne evening, we quickly took our seats in the orchestra just in time to see Sharon Corr take to the stage. Ably backed by a trio on drums, bass and guitar, Sharon delivered a beautiful 10 song set which included originals and a smattering of cover songs – some of them old Corrs' numbers. As impressions go, she looked every bit as stunning as she did back in the day when she fronted her three siblings in The Corrs, but more importantly, her voice was incredibly pure and pristine, and when I closed my eyes briefly to focus on just what I was hearing during the first few songs, I swore I could be listening to Karen Carpenter. Sharon's voice shares a very similar timbre and purity. It quickly became apparent that all her years treading the boards as a youth and then later fronting The Corrs has meant Sharon is consummately confident and she managed to engage the audience on the very first song – getting them to sing along to the refrain of her solo tune ‘We Could Be Lovers’. She belted out familiar Corr’s hits like ‘Say’, ‘Radio’ and ‘So Young’ which struck a familiar chord with the audience. Topically, after joking about packing the wrong kind of clothes for Melbourne’s inclement weather, she nailed a cover of Fleetwood Macs’ ‘Dreams’, and the 'thunder only happens when it’s raining’ refrain, whilst a topical reminder of the dreadful weather today, was a timely reminder that we will once again be seeing the fully reunited Mac on our shores later in the year. During interval, I was happy to see the foyer was jammed with fans queueing to get copies of her latest CD signed and a photo with Sharon. A successful gig in all respects.


Sharon Corr’s setlist
We Could Be Lovers
Say (The Corrs song)
Jenny's Chickens
Radio (The Corrs song)
Take a Minute
Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
The Same Sun
Full Circle
So Young (The Corrs song)


Fans of America realise the group have been around the block more than a few times and tonight they were back in Melbourne celebrating 45 years in the business. Since forming in London in 1970 as kids when their Dads were in the airforce, Dewey Bunnell and his partner Gerry Beckley have covered a lot of miles, releasing 29 albums, traversed lineup changes, the passing of their bandmate Dan Peek, and seen their share of highs and lows. For any show to truly reflect that, there is a kaleidoscope of history to cover off.

The show began with a short montage of images depicting the band at various stages in their career and there were collective sighs from trainspotting fans around me as familiar album covers flashed up.

The band walked on to rapturous applause as Gerry and Dewey launched into the glorious strains of ‘Tin Man’ from 1974’s 'Holiday', one of their landmark releases, the first album produced in the Caribbean by George Martin. The familiar two-part harmonies were sublime, with Bunnell’s unique vocal underpinned by Beckley’s sweet do-do’s. The dual acoustics like two old friends – warm and welcoming. Without pause, from there it was into the one-two punch of 1982’s ‘You Can Do Magic’ and ‘Don’t Cross The River’, the latter’s distinctive banjo part being masterfully plucked by Billy 'the Kid’ Worrell who despite his youth, immediately made a huge impression.

It was then onto keys for Beckley for the sweetly amorous ‘Daisy Jane’. The band welcomed support Sharon Corr back on stage to accompany them on violin. Whilst a gorgeous rendition, it was sadly hampered by a faulty lead which buzzed through the quieter parts of the song and was somewhat distracting. To Jeff Worrell, the master soundman's credit, the problem had been fixed by the second verse.

The band then served up the rollicking ‘Riverside’ and ‘I Need You’. I glanced around the audience to see if in fact I was the only one feeling the vibe and was reassured that many were singing along with eyes closed. Yep, I guess it’s just one of those classic love songs that people can’t help but get lost in. Gerry and Dewey’s voices are so distinctive, I don’t really think anyone else could really sing these songs in quite the same way.


It was now time for some brief historical introspection. The next track ‘Here’, became an almost autobiographical ode to their lost brother in song, and visually was accompanied by a clever morphing montage of the trio through various stages of their career. Starting slow and melancholy, it quickly broke into a joyous celebration of shared times together. The band really opened up on this tune allowing the young trio of Ryland Steen (Reel Big Fish) on drums, Billy 'the Kid’ Worrell on guitars and Richard Campbell (Natalie Cole, Three Dog Night, Dave Mason) on bass an opportunity to show off their chops. They delighted in taking it to the audience, with each revelling in their extended solos. Gerry and Dewey have chosen wisely – these guys play like maestros and whilst Richard Campbell’s bass is some of the lowest, raunchiest around – by contrast – his backing vocals are among the highest I can recall hearing in a long while – which for a harmonies band like America, has to be worth it’s weight in gold.

Keeping it in chronological order, the next song was the first single off the second album, 'Homecoming', the iconic ‘Ventura Highway' and as expected, it was glorious – eliciting more ‘aahs’ of recognition from the audience. Keen to demonstrate that they're still writing great material and not just resting on past laurels, they followed up that classic very swiftly with a series of tracks, the first being from this year’s ‘Lost and Found' called ‘Driving’ – It featured a forceful and equally spritely solo from young whizz Worrell. An audience request for ‘Chasing The Rainbow’ was a soft respite before the guys then whipped through a heartfelt tribute to sick friend Joni Mitchell in the form of her song ‘Woodstock’ performed in a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young style.

'Cornwall Blank/Hollywood' and a Gin Blossom’s cover of ’Til I Hear it From You’ lifted from their covers album Back Pages were well received. As were ‘The Border’ and the seldom heard ‘Green Monkey’ from the third album ‘HatTrick’.

It was then that the vibe lifted another notch as young Worrell put down his trusty white Stratocaster and took to the keyboards to share vocals with his bosses, standing in for departed Peek on the evergreen ‘Woman Tonight’. It was a delight. Every bit as poppy and vibrant as when I first heard it back in the day. The smoulderingly deep bass solo that characterises the track was absolutely walloped by Campbell and was a personal highlight of the evening.

It was back-to-back hits time. 'Only In Your Heart’ followed with another gorgeous backwards guitar solo by Worrell – the band’s resident 'Cougar-Catcher’ (‘Every band needs one and we’ve got ours’ according to Beckley) there anything this young prodigy can’t do?


Nostalgic cover time: a gutsy cover of The Mamas & the Papas' ‘California Dreaming’ from back in the day when they worked as a High School dance combo and as kids used to take the Tube down to Kings Cross in swinging London and frequent clubs in the early London Scene…seeing bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Royal Albert Hall, early King Crimson when they were first forming before their first album, The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in '69, Lots of Led Zeppelin Living at the Airforce base, they would delight in getting all the new records before the british kids and they would spend hours picking apart the latest Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield and Beach Boys.

I sensed we were approaching the finish line now, as the hits continued to come thick and fast. The blissful ‘Lonely People’ with a lovely keyboard and harmonica part by the immensely talented Gerry. ‘Sandman’ resplendent with full-on band rock-out with phased guitar solos accompanied by visceral period footage of Vietnam Choppers and Hippiedom at it’s peak. Powerful stuff.

The final song of the main set, the inimitable ‘Sister Golden Hair’ was met with an ecstatic reception, with hands in the air all over the glorious Palais Theatre. A joyous celebration.

A short break ensued and then the boys were back for one last R&B styled song culled from their covers album Back Pages called ‘Dream Come True’… but I think everyone in the place instinctively knew what had to come next…and there it was… period Death Valley footage to the plaintive lyric of a certain horse, that despite over forty five years aimlessly wandering the desert, still remained unnamed. The fact that we didn’t hear ‘Muskrat Love’ I don’t think was missed at all.

Overall a stellar evening that I thought couldn’t be topped – that was, until I had the good fortune to catch Gerry and Dewey as they left the Palais Theatre on the way to their hotel and had them both graciously scribble on my CD cover! If you get the chance to catch America on this or any other tour, jump at the opportunity. You will be richly rewarded.


America’s setlist
Tin Man
You Can Do Magic
Don't Cross The River
Daisy Jane
I Need You
Ventura Highway
Chasing the Rainbow
Woodstock (Joni Mitchell cover)
Cornwall Blank / Hollywood
Til I Hear It From You (Gin Blossoms cover)
The Border
Green Monkey
Woman Tonight
Only in Your Heart
California Dreamin' (The Mamas & the Papas cover)
Lonely People
Sister Golden Hair
Dream Come True
A Horse With No Name

AMERICA Tour Dates:
Thurs 14th May - State Theatre, Sydney
Fri 15th May - State Theatre, Sydney
Sat 16th May - Jupiters Hotel & Casino, Broadbeach Qld
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