Thursday, February 1, 2018

An Evening With America In Central Florida

January 25, 2018

Peabody Auditorium
Daytona Beach, Florida

by Michelle Wilson of Rock Legends Photographers

On a rather chilly Thursday evening in Florida's world-famous Daytona Beach, the charming Peabody Auditorium treated fans to an unforgettable evening with America. Growing up in military families stationed in England, founding members Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, along with the late Dan Peek, formed their acoustic trio with killer harmonies in London, 1970 while attending high school together. They chose the name, "America," to set them apart from their British counterparts. By their fourth album, they had enlisted the brilliant production skills of George Martin, who proceeded to produce a total of four albums for them. 48 years later, Bunnell and Beckley are still doing it, and doing it brilliantly, although as Beckley quipped during the show, "48 years wasn't really part of Plan A." Nevertheless, the band has endured and thrived, performing approximately 100 shows annually. 

The original duo is supported by a phenomenal group of musicians including bassist/vocalist (with unreal harmonies) Rich Campbell, who has been with them for 15 years, drummer Ryland Steen and guitarist/vocalist Andy Barr, who also plays banjo and keyboards. At 7:40pm, the band took the stage following a brief historical video montage of America through the years, while enthusiastic fans clapped and cheered for the seemingly timeless band. The nearly sold-out house emanated a warm, nostalgic vibe as the group opened the 90-minute, intermission-free set with one of their many hits, "Tin Man," and they never stopped.

"It's an evening with America, so we're gonna play everything we know," Beckley teased, and the crowd ate it up while the hits continued, including "Magic," "Don't Cross the River," "Daisy Jane," "Riverside," "I Need You," "Here," "Ventura Highway," "Driving," "Monster," their killer signature cover of "Eleanor Rigby," the very CSNY-esque "Cornwall Blank/Hollywood," "The Border," the deep cut, "Greenhouse," ("Every now and then we dredge up this one - I don't know if you know it," announced Bunnell.) "Woman Tonight," "Only In Your Heart," a truly haunting cover of "California Dreamin' " that rivaled The Mamas & The Papas original and that they have been performing since their high school days, the Dan Peek-penned "Lonely People," "Sandman," "Sister Golden Hair" and of course, the iconic encore, "Horse With No Name."

There was a funny moment where the band mentioned a song from the wrong album, and an audience member was quick to correct the error. Beckley laughed it off, sharing that "some of those decades are a little foggier than others." Beckley also joked that when the band was in Australia, they told the concertgoers that "it's classic rock, it's not oldies - there's a difference but we don't know what it is." Someone yelled, "You're still alive!" "We'll go with that for now." replied Beckley.

There was such an indescribable feel to this show. The moment the music started there was that instantaneous transport back in time to the days of youth and innocence, when life seemed so much simpler. Maybe that's why so many faithful fans still flock to America concerts. Beckley summed it up best: "As long as you guys keep coming, we will keep playing." Let's hope they never stop. 

Check out the full set of photos from myself and Michael Yanko of Rock Legends Photographers at the link:

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