VEN­TURA HIGH­WAY RE­VIS­ITED

Cre­at­ing a new show with a blend of old hits and great cov­ers is a for­mula US band Amer­ica hopes will ap­peal to au­di­ences Down Un­der

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD PLAY - SAM KEL­TON

Cel­e­brat­ing 45 years to­gether, US folk-rock band Amer­ica will re­turn to Australia this month with clas­sic hits and old favourites. The duo of Gerry Beck­ley and Dewey Bun­nell have added hit af­ter hit over the decades to their live show – but now they have the chance to play even more with a cov­ers al­bum that the band will fea­ture on this Aus­tralian tour.

Cel­e­brat­ing acts such as Bob Dy­lan, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, it’s one of the rare times when fans are re­ceiv­ing the new stuff as well as the old.

“You al­ways want to play some of the newer stuff in the live show and be­cause a lot of the ma­te­rial is familiar to our fans, adding them to the show added an ex­tra strength that we hadn’t re­ally thought about,” Beck­ley says.

“We’ve never had to rely on cover songs be­cause for­tu­nately we’ve had enough hits of our own – but it is fun to play th­ese songs in the live show and peo­ple know them.”

The al­bum, Back Pages, was re­leased in 2011 and fea­tures guests.

“Mark Knopfler – get­ting him on the al­bum was a real treat,” Beck­ley says. “And, of course, Van Dyke Parks – we go way back and he’s just a na­tional trea­sure.

“He con­tin­ues to be a fan­tas­tic ar­ranger for other peo­ple but he’s a real tal­ent.”

It’s dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that it has been more than 40 years since the re­lease of the band’s revered de­but record. The self­ti­tled clas­sic seemed a no­brainer for Beck­ley when he looked back on it.

“When you’re work­ing on an al­bum it’s just a given that you do the best you can,” he says. “It was a very quick al­bum – I think it was made for $7000 and ba­si­cally we were cap­tur­ing what we were do­ing on the live stage.

“Look­ing back, there were very few over­dubs. We had Ray Cooper on per­cus­sion and David Lind­ley, who went on to do years of great work with Jack­son Browne. We were very proud of that al­bum.”

The band’s third al­bum, how­ever, was a dif­fer­ent story.

“I re­mem­ber that be­ing some­what of a chore,” he says.

“I be­gan feel­ing the pres­sure and I was sit­ting more in the pro­ducer’s chair and adding strings and horns, and I re­mem­ber when we fin­ished we thought how it was a lot of work. It was then we de­cided to go back to hav­ing a pro­ducer, which led to work­ing with Ge­orge Martin for seven al­bums, a great move at the right time.”

Clearly the mu­si­cal gene runs in the fam­ily. If you’ve heard a great pop song in the past decade – chances are Beck­ley’s son Matthew had a part in it. He’s worked with Brit­ney Spears, Icona Pop, Selena Gomez, Ke$ha and even Delta Goodrem.

“He’s not tour­ing at the mo­ment (he toured with Katy Perry as her gui­tarist for years). He’s just done a track with Gwen Ste­fani, so he’s quite ac­tive – thanks for ask­ing.”

Hit duo Gerry Beck­ley and Dewey Bun­nell form the core of US band Amer­ica and are tour­ing Australia this month.

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