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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.





Tommy Castro & The Painkillers To Return To Lizzie Rose Music Room
​​​​​​​(TUCKERTON, NJ) -- Tommy Castro & the Painkillers return to the Lizzie Rose Music Room on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30pm.  Whether he’s squeezing out the deepest blues or playing the funkiest soul grooves, legendary blues and soul giant Tommy Castro knows how to ignite a crowd. Tickets are $38.00 Advance and $45.00 day of show.
Experience Hendrix at NJPAC on March 29th
(NEWARK, NJ) --  Celebrate the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix as Experience Hendrix comes to Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Centeron Friday, March 29 at 8:00pm. This critically acclaimed multi-artist tribute to Hendrix features performances by Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson, Doug Pinnick, Chris Layton, Mato Nanji, Kenny Aronoff, The Slide Brothers, Henri Brown, Kevin McCormick and special guest Taj Mahal.
World Famous Bachata Artists To Take The Stage for Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 At Prudential Center on Saturday, March 16
(NEWARK, NJ) -- Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 at Prudential Center will bring together the world’s best Bachata artists including, Frank Reyes “The Prince of Bachata”, Hector Acosta “El Torito”, Zacarias Ferreira, Luis Vargas and Raulin Rodriguez "El Cacique”. Uforia Bachata Fest 2019, presented by Zamora Live, Euforia Radio (Univision) and Corona Extra, will be held on Saturday, March 16 at 8:00pm.  The contagious Caribbean rhythm known as "Bachata" will have its gala night, marking the first time in history these world-renowned artists will perform on the same stage. 
Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra To Perform at Princeton University January 27
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) continues its 40th Anniversary with a concert featuring the NJYS Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra on Sunday, January 27 at 4:00pm at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University located at 68 Nassau Street in Princeton. Youth Symphony will open the concert with Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D major followed by Youth Orchestra performing Dvořák Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88.
Rickie Lee Jones To Perform At Grunin Center
(TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- Two-time Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones exploded onto the pop scene in 1978 and has made a career of fearlessly experimenting with her sound and persona on more than 15 critically acclaimed albums. She brings her show “An Intimate Evening with Rickie Lee Jones” to the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on Friday, February 22 at 8:00pm.  


The Empire Strikes Back in Concert with the NJSO LIVE! at the State Theatre
Some of our favorite childhood memories growing up at the Jersey Shore involved going to our town’s grand old movie palace, The Community Theater, in Toms River. Built with colonial architecture and featuring large white columns in the front, paned glass windows in the lobby, a circular brick walk from the sidewalk to the box office, and a white picket fence which enclosed a lawn and a flower bed, this local gem presented the latest Hollywood films. For kids like us back in the 1960’s, that meant pictures like Mary Poppins, Cinderella, The Love Bug, and Flipper.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
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Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.


2019-01-23
Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

2019-01-23
Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

2019-01-24
New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch








 






















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