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“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE!
at BergenPAC

By Shelley Bromberg, Photos by Love Imagery

originally published: 04/16/2018

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

It’s a clear, crisp Thursday March 29, 2018 evening as an enthusiastic crowd enters BergenPAC in Englewood, NJ to enjoy a nostalgic evening of music from the top ’70s folk-rock band, America!

America’s founding members Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley, and Dan Peek formed the band in 1970 when the group began performing in England. They were all sons of American US Air Force servicemen who were stationed in London. They named their band America so people wouldn’t confuse them with actual British groups who were trying to sound American.

America became best known for recording lush and easygoing folk-rock melodies. Their first album, America, premiered in 1971 and included such hits as “A Horse with No Name” and “I Need You.” Following that, their Homecoming album came out in 1972 and featured the single “Ventura Highway.” Some of their other big successes include “Tin Man” from their Holiday recording, and “Sister Golden Hair,” a #1 single from their 1975 Hearts album.

In 1977 Peek retired from the group, but Bunnell and Beckley have continued to play for sold-out crowds performing 100 shows a year for the last 40 years.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

They’ve also continued to record, releasing albums which include Here and Now in 2007, Back Pages in 2011and Lost and Found in 2015.



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Over the past four decades America has cultivated multiple generations of avid and devoted fans. Before tonight’s concert, we take a moment catch up with just a few of them.

First, we chat with Liz from Woodbridge, who has traveled the Eastern seaboard from Virginia to Rhode Island numerous times to hear her beloved band. Liz’s love for America has never wavered, and she tells us she’s thrilled to hear them perform tonight in Englewood.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

Despite having seen the group over a dozen times, Liz tells us that this evening’s concert is unique because she is here with her son Daniel. Although Daniel grew up with America’s music “practically since he was born,” this will be his first-ever America performance and he is excited to hear the band live.

We also meet a cheerful couple, Bob and Patti, who reminisce about their early dating years when they were teens. According to the duo, they got together at about the same time that America first formed in 1970. In those days, recalls Bob, he had an eight-track player in his car, and the couple made out to Bob’s America tape, explaining, “We could time how long we were kissing to it. We wouldn’t come up for air for an entire track!”

Lastly, we meet Ron from Ridgefield — a firefighter for 36 years. Like many fans here this evening, for him, coming to hear America is a happy, nostalgic experience. “America has a load of hits and they bring back happy memories of being a kid and playing ball in the streets of Jersey City!” states Ron. He adds that he especially enjoys attending events at Bergen PAC because, as he explains, “it’s easy to get to, there are good restaurants nearby, and it’s convenient.”

Before tonight’s show, we also get a chance to chat with America’s 37-year-old drummer, Ryland Steen, who is a singer/songwriter himself.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

Steen tells us that he often enjoys meeting audience members before concerts. He reveals that when he joined America just over three years ago, he knew that America was a popular band from the ‘70s, but since he’s learned the group’s history, he contends, “It’s really amazing what they’ve accomplished.”

The auditorium lights dim and tonight’s opening act, Larry Stevens, takes the stage. Stevens gets the audience warmed up as he sings and plays acoustic guitar on an original number entitled “Always You.”

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

Sharing the stage with Stevens is percussionist Vinnie Presite on the cajón, a box-shaped seat drum, which he plays by slapping the front of the box with his hands. The duo has a very full sound for only two performers, and the audience takes in their easygoing sound.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

A highlight of Stevens’s set is his original rendition of John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland.” Physically resembling a young José Feliciano, Stevens’s voice easily glides through the melodic tune. This number is followed up by two original numbers — “Deja Voo-Doo Glow,” which compliments Stevens’s smooth falcetto voice, and “Love just Happens to Be.”

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

Following hearty applause, during intermission, we have an opportunity to speak with Larry Stevens in the BergenPAC lobby. Here, we learn about Stevens’s New Jersey connection — he was born in Paterson, grew up in Montvale, and currently resides in Park Ridge.

When asked why he feels New Jersey plays such a big part in popular music, he states, “We all grew up listening to a lot of different styles — the Beatles, Top 40, Elvis — and we heard so much of it on local radio,” before noting, “And so much music took place right here in Jersey, as well as in nearby New York City.”

In closing, Stevens tells us that he has a special love for performing here in New Jersey when he comments, “BergenPAC feels like a second home — we really enjoy playing here!”

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

As we make our way back into the auditorium, the lights dim and the audience enjoys a video montage of photos and images of America from earlier days.

The live music commences with founding member Dewey Bunnell singing lead on the America’s 1974 hit, “Tin Man,” written by Bunnell and originally produced by the well-known Beatles producer, George Martin.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

Accompanied by long-time colleague Gerry Beckley on vocals, the group’s smooth, familiar harmonies bring the audience back to an earlier time.

At the song’s conclusion, Bunnell, Beckley, and the rest of the band — Ryland Steen on drums; Rich Campbell on bass; and Andy Barr on guitars, banjo, and keyboards — are greeted with excited applause from the crowd.

The group then launches into their 1982 Top 10 hit, “You Can Do Magic.” As Gerry Beckley croons, “You can do magic/You can have anything that you desire/Magic/And you know you’re the one who can put out the fire,” his voice sounds as clear and strong as it did in the 1970s.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

An outstanding part of the evening is the group’s performance of their 1972 Top 10 hit, “Ventura Highway,” which begins with their signature hammer-on guitar introduction.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

As the audience takes in the group’s stellar rhythmic acoustic sound and tight vocal harmonies, they view various sights on the big screen including surfers, old cars, and dancers on the beach. The performance receives a well-deserved standing ovation!

Another highlight of the evening is the band’s performance of their 1974 number, “Hollywood.” Expertly accompanied by his stage mates, the tune features a soaring electric guitar solo by Andy Barr.

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

As Barr and the band jam, the crowd views an assortment of iconic Tinseltown clips of Lucy and Ricky, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplan, and Mickey Mouse, to name a few.

The group finishes with a rhythmic and dynamic version of their 1975 hit, “Sister Golden Hair,” which leaves the audience singing, dancing on their feet, and wanting more!

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

Although the musicians depart the stage, they do not disappoint. They return to perform their 1972 #1 hit, “A Horse with No Name,” their most successful single. The crowd remains on its feet, clapping and cheering for their beloved band!

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

Following the show, we take a moment to catch up with some of the concert attendees as they cheerfully make their way out of the BergenPAC auditorium.

First, we catch up with Bob and Patti — the couple we spoke with before the show — where Bob announces, “America was awesome! Their shows are always great!”

Richard from Edison reveals, “This is my fifth time hearing America live. They are a great band, and their music brings back so many special memories from my childhood.”

Lastly, we chat with Nancy from Union who discloses that, although her parents couldn’t join her for this evening’s performance, she attributes her love for the band to them, explaining, “The music of America was always a staple growing up in our home. Their songs are the soundtrack of my life.”

“The Soundtrack of My Life” America LIVE! at BergenPAC

To learn more about America, please go to venturahighway.com. For further information about Larry Stevens, please click on larrystevensband.com. To find out more about future concerts at Bergen PAC — including Todd Rundgren on April 20 and Kansas on April 26 — please go to bergenpac.org.





Hope 10 - The Final Hope Concert To Take Place On December 23
(RED BANK, NJ) -- Musician, bandleader and community icon Bobby Bandiera and the Count Basie Center for the Arts have announced details for HOPE 10 – THE FINAL HOPE CONCERT. The annual charity concert, which has raised millions for area community organizations, will take place at the Basie Center on Sunday, December 23. Tickets range from $50 to $500.
Mayo Presents Puddles Pity Party
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Puddles Pity Party -- The "Sad Clown with the Golden Voice" -- comes to Mayo Performing Arts Center with his heartfelt anthems and a suitcase full of Kleenex!  Puddles Pity Party performs on Wednesday, November 14 at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $35-$55.
State Theatre Present A Tribute to ABBA
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents ABBA The Concert: A Tribute to ABBA on Thursday, November 8 at 8:00pm. ABBA The Concert: A Tribute to ABBA, brings one of the greatest pop successes in the history of music back to life. Tickets range from $29-$69. 
Murray Grove Retreat & Renewal Center Hosts Mischief Masquerade
(LANOKA HARBOR, NJ) -- Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center  will be hosting a Halloween-themed event, Mischief Masquerade, as part of their Speakeasy Series on Tuesday, October 30th. This October event follows their previous “Prohibition Party,” which was a great success. The Mischief Masquerade will run from 7:00pm-10:00pm and will feature a Halloween DJ, a costume contest, vendors, mixed drinks from Asbury Park Distilling, a $5 bar menu, tarot card readings, henna and more! The event is sponsored by Breaker Zine, an arts and culture magazine, and Asbury Park Distilling.
SOPAC Presents Roots Music Legends: Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore have been filling canvasses with music of the American West for decades, coming from two very different directions. Now, they will play together at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on November 1 at 7:30pm for the very first time. Though far from home, Alvin and Gilmore’s first duo album, Downey to Lubbock, contains all the elements that have sustained their musical journey through the years.


Cliffside Park, NJ Celebrates "Cousin Bruce Morrow Day!"
A crowd of local residents and dignitaries gathers outside Public School #6 in Cliffside, NJ on this beautiful fall evening. They are all awaiting the arrival of the “man of the hour” — celebrated radio DJ Bruce Morrow — since Mayor Thomas Calabrese has proclaimed today, October 5, 2018, “Cousin Bruce Morrow Day!”
Cynthia Sayer and Her Joyride Quartet LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
The audience is already in place this Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018 at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts for a special “Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon” performance by Cynthia Sayer and Her Joyride Quartet entitled The Hot Banjo Show!
Whitney Houston Exhibit Opens at The GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center
Interviews with Pat Houston, President of The Estate of Whitney E. Houston and Bob Santelli, Founding Executive Director of the Grammy Museum
"Very Happy!" The Buckinghams and Cowsills Star in Cousin Brucie's Rock and Roll Yearbook Vol. 2 LIVE!
Fall is in the air at Homdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center this Friday, September 28, 2018 evening as thousands of ’60s music lovers ready themselves forCousin Brucie’s Rock and Roll Yearbook Vol. 2! The show — produced by Cousin Brucie, along with Rob Albanese and the Garden State Arts Center Foundation — features four fab acts from the 1960s: The Buckinghams, The Cowsills, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, and The Orlons!
“Brilliant!” The Young Dubliners LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a mild Saturday, September 29, 2019 evening as fans of Celtic rock are streaming into Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts for a concert by The Young Dubliners.










Event calendar
Sunday, Oct 21, 2018


MUSIC

DiTrani Bros: Folk, Swing, Jazz, Ragtime!! @ Roxy and Dukes Roadhouse, Dunellen - 7:00pm

Jazz Guitarist Abe Ovadia @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Gypsy Jazz Brunch with Pyrenesia and Max Hansen Buffet @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

Dryden Ensemble: Bach Cantata Fest @ Miller Chapel (Princeton), Princeton - 3:00pm

Suzzanne Douglas @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 7:30pm


THEATRE

The Ghost Princess @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 2:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm

CDC Theatre presents A Few Good Men @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 2:00pm

Wait Until Dark @ Somerset Valley Playhouse, Hillsborough - 8:00pm

World Premier of, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, A Horror of a Play @ Forum Theatre (Metuchen), Metuchen - 3:00pm

The Color Purple @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm

Almost, Maine @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm

Black Tom Island @ The 1882 Carriage House, Liberty Hall Museum, Union - 3:00pm

*Uncle Vanya, Scenes from a Jersey Life in Four Acts @ Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken - 7:00pm

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie @ Westfield Community Players, Westfield - 2:00pm







DANCE

DRACULA - THE ATLANTIC CITY BALLET @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 4:00pm


FILM

A conversation with John Cusack Following a screening of Say Anything @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:00pm


KIDS

Summit Farmers Market Pumpkin Painting @ Summit Farmers Market, Summit - 10:00am


POETRY

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 9:00am


MISC

HAUNTED ILLUSIONS LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 3:00pm

THE MAGIC OF BILL BLAGG LIVE! @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm

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