America + Russell Morris @ Crown Theatre Perth 24/07/17 (Live Review) amnplify_writer
America + Russell Morris
@ Crown Theatre Perth
24/07/17 (Live Review) .
“These aren’t oldies, they’re classic rock”America vocalist Gerry Beckley informed the Monday night Perth crowd during the opening night of the 70’s legends 2107 Australian tour. The band whose sound was synonymous throughout that auspicious decade with delicate three-part harmonies and such FM radio staples as Ventura Highway and A Horse With No Name have been regular visitors to our shores over the years and the crowd was certainly a mixed bag of age demographics, showing that their take on the sun drenched ‘California Sound’ (despite their humble beginnings in London) still has a universal appeal.
Opening up for the band was 60’s/70’s Australian superstar Russell Morris. Morris has certainly made a dramatic comeback in recent years thanks to a trilogy of Australiana records, starting with 2012’s Sharkmouth, and he showed the crowd that he’s lost none of his charm and honesty down the years. Slipping his version of Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue early into the set, he was in fine form and relished the fact that he was playing to an appreciative audience. “After the 60’s and 70’s I was left to live out in the desert eating cactus” he quipped, alluding to the ‘lean’ years after his string of hit singles dried up, and before he successfully reinvented himself for a new generation of blues and roots lovers. Indeed his set was dominated by newer material with a smattering of the old hits thrown in for good measure. The Delta blues of Sharkmouth showcased his band’s tight arrangements and featured some tasty slide work. All the elements of Mississippi swampy rock are in place, but reborn with a uniquely Australian slant.
“I hope you’ve all bought your mind altering substances because we’re going back in time now” he said before launching into The Real Thing. And whilst the arrangement reflected his current musical stylings rather than the 7-minute psychedelic epic released in 1969, Morris still approached the song with all the passion of the original, likewise with The Wings Of An Eagle. A stellar set from an Aussie legend. .
Russell Morris – photography by Len Panecki
. After a brief intermission the screen lit up with a nostalgic slide show of album covers, old photographs, long hair and flared pants asAmericatook to the stage and kicked off with their 1974 hitTin Man. It was a different change of pace for the night, for where Morris had been front and centre, striding up and down the stage, the duo ofGerry BeckleyandDewey Bunnell ensconced themselves well back from the edge of the stage, ringed by fold back speakers, close to their incredible three piece band. After a trio of songs including their early 80’s singleYou Can Do Magicand 1972’sDon’t Cross The River, all of which were delivered with faithful approximations of those amazing harmonies that made the band so famous, Beckley seated himself at piano for the exquisite balladDaisy Jane, and it was evident that he struggled vocally throughout the song. Whether by jetlag or simply the passage of time he gave the song his all but sadly fell somewhat short of the spine tingling vocal from the original.
America – photography by Len Panecki
They did manage to redeem themselves a few songs later with an absolutely sublime reading ofVentura Highway, and they punctuated the hits with deep cuts likeDrivingandMonster, but midway through their set they almost came unstuck with a lacklustre take on The BeatlesEleanor Rigby. A song that was a pioneering track from a landmark album, here it was somewhat haphazard and seemed oddly out of place.
Despite this, Beckley and Bunnell can certainly work a crowd. They casually quipped and joked with the audience during the course of their 90-minute set, showing the warmth and humour they’ve become so known for. “That was dangerously close to jamming” the former said at the climax toHollywood. Once again later in the show they tried to recapture the classic sounds of days gone by with a cover of The Mamas and The PapasCalifornia Dreamin’and again it just felt out of place and vocally lacking. Whatever shortcomings the duo had they were surrounded by a band of crack musicians, especially the multi instrumentalist Andy Barr, and so did still deliver a show that paid homage to the glories of their musical past, but in places that did only serve to highlight that their once splendid voices are sadly not what they used to be. .
America – photography by Len Panecki
. They did save the best until last however, as they tore through a brilliant rocking version ofSister Golden Hair and as footage of war protesters and hippies appeared on the screen behind them it was one of the most cohesive moments of the night, where band, song and visuals meshed to provide a moving and emotional connection.
But it was always going to beA Horse With No Namethat finished off the night, and as Russell Morris joined the band onstage for the finale he provided a lush vocal addition to close out the night.
A great show? In places yes, the rest simply good. In parts America certainly manage to give the fans what they want, but in other parts their show could possibly do with a rethink.