As long As We Keep Coming, America Will Keep Playing America Brings Their 50th Anniversary To The Theatre At Ace Hotel
LOS ANGELES, CA– While walking up to the Theater at The Ace Hotel for the “America: 50th Anniversary Tour” stop in Downtown, Los Angeles on the summer solstice, it immediately felt like I was joining a happy family in mid-reunion. The warm smiles on everyone’s faces displayed thousands of happy memories that most likely were made to the music, at past America shows or with the band themselves over the years. Even my first photography mentor, legendary rock n’ roll photographer Henry Diltz (who created many of the band’s Album covers, press photos and candids) and I got to catch up briefly while we squared away our credentials at will call. It hit me then that the last time I’d seen Henry with the band’s frontmen Gerry and Dewey in the same place at the same time, I was photographing them in a recording session at Gerry’s Laurel Canyon home studio for the album Human Nature 21 years ago.
Once inside the venue, we parted ways, my eyes scanned over the ornate gothic architecture of the Theater and I noticed that there was already a long line at the merch table for those eager to collect their piece of memorabilia. When walking past the lines for the bar, I overheard stories of other fans catching up – some who hadn’t bumped into each other since concerts in the 70’s. As the ushers opened the curtains to start seating everyone, the crowd diverted and it felt as if we were boarding a time machine or spaceship.
It was fitting that the female counterpart of opening duo Formerly Alien stuck to her stewardess type dialogue about being the spaceships’ “Director of Entertainment” and that she’d be checking back in between songs to ensure that all passengers “are healthy, happy, and having fun.” Their theatrical performance truly intensified any sense of time speeding up, yet slowing down and was the perfect way to get everyone in the venue unified in feeding off the energy of the present moment.
During the changeover between sets, I met Terri, a friendly solo free-spirited woman who told me about her unexpected decade of happening upon a job while on a trip to Mammoth Mountain and how America’s music was a big part of the soundtrack to that period of time for her. I thought it was great that she’d decided to attend the show despite her friends not being able to make it and that she intended to enjoy her own company with the music she loved so much. I totally identified with her on that level. As we wished each other a wonderful time and went our separate ways, the house lights dimmed once again and the airy intro of America’s 1974 number one hit “Tin Man” began to play.
Each member of the band took the stage with an enthusiastic spring in their step and the crowd started to rise to their feet with applause. Some fans immediately started dancing to the latin jazz inspired beat while others embraced each other and grooved out in their seats, waving their hands in the air to the music. It almost felt like a slow motion rollercoaster ride that went right into the band’s 1982 hit- and my personal favorite song of theirs- “Magic”. The conviction and intensity in Dewey and Gerry’s voices while singing the lines, “… you can have anything that you desire, magic…” felt intentional and absolutely convincing in a Yoda kind of way.
They then bounced around between timelines with the country rock inspired “Don’t Cross The River” off of the 1972 Homecoming album and 1975’s love song “Daisy Jane” from the Hearts album. Bringing the ride back to where it all began for them in 1971, they turned the energy in the room up a few notches by playing the very first song, “Riverside” from their first, self-titled album America, back to back with the same album’s heartfelt seventh song, “I Need You.”
Next up was one of the most iconic songs of their career, “Ventura Highway” and was paired with a happy tear-jerking animated slideshow of photos and video of the era edited perfectly to the music. Even if you’ve never actually experienced what driving down the Ventura Highway in the sunshine with the free wind blowing in your hair feels like or knowing that there’s something better for you out there on the horizon of life; everyone in that audience singing along would’ve made you think that you were right there with Dewey when he experienced the feelings that moved him to write the song and head west.
Following that up with “Driving”, originally an unreleased track that made it on to their 2000 album Lost and Found, led to them telling more stories (in between the following 10 songs on their set list) about their experiences growing up as teens in England, witnessing some of the best Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix & Pink Floyd shows and then performed a cover of “California Dreamin’ by their dear friends, The Mammas and The Pappas. Gerry half joking and half seriously proclaimed that he wished that they’d written that track and the audience chuckled. He also mentioned that 49 years of their own career wasn’t in the original plan but that, “as long as you guys keep coming, we’ll keep playing!”
Before we knew it, they were already performing their encore, “A Horse With No Name.” The standing ovation remained throughout the song and while they said goodbye and took their bows, a sense of nostalgia already filled the air. It all seemed to go by with a blink of the eye and left everyone with a sense of wonderment. The show was proof that time really does fly when you’re having fun with the friends you make in your musical family and hopefully that’ll be all the fuel this legendary rock band needs to keep writing songs and playing shows that stand the test of time.