America, Rick Price
Hamer Hall | 6 September 2012
“Hello! You missed some great stuff. I was awesome!” Rick Price jokes as some latecomers try to slip into their front-row seats unnoticed. And he is awesome. Price’s voice is beautifully melodic. The years since his hits Heaven Knows and Not A Day Goes By have given his tone greater maturity and lushness while retaining a soaring boyishness. He offers these songs with a fresh touch, they lilt and drift through the audience like saccharine kisses. Drawing from a strong connection to his childhood and family, Love Never Dies is a touching song written for his late mother; he also pays tribute to his father and grandfather with Bridge Building Man. New song Shape Of My Heart is about personal happiness following his recent marriage; his spirituality and soul warm the room. Price’s pop-ballad world is like a warm hug – you want to stay enveloped in it just a little bit longer.
The extra-anticipatory buzz reserved for musical legends is starting to fill Hamer Hall as a guitar tech flits around onstage. “He’s a bit like our dog, that bloke: he goes in, he goes out”, intones one excitable man in seating Row K, before launching into an animated betting discussion with everyone around him about which song America will open with.
Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, two of the founders of America, lope onstage, accompanied by veteran band members Willie Leacox on drums, Michael Woods on guitar and comparative newcomer Richard Campbell on bass. There is camaraderie amongst these guys; they play together with the finesse and practiced polish of true professionals.
America feel less like a band and more like a brand: Bunnell and Beckley are caretakers of this iconic machine. Row K man whoops in glee as his guess, Tin Man, opens the show. Then the hits roll out: You Can Do Magic, I Need You and Ventura Highway. The songs resonate in the ears and memories of baby boomers and younger audience members alike as they sing along. No one minds the slight waning in strength of the vocals over the decades; it doesn’t matter anyway because this night is all about nostalgia. Covers from album Back Pages are welcomed: Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock, and the Gin Blossoms’ Til I Hear It From You.
The best part of the night comes at the end: the rumble of ’70s rock-epic Sandman accompanied by nostalgic ’60s and ’70s projector footage. It presents a powerful image: these frontmen evoke another era and keep its memory alive. Segueing into the wistful rolling folk of Sister Golden Hair is perfect. The band are fully warmed up and rocking; the song finishes and the band exit to a standing ovation.
The encore is de rigueur and, besides, we haven’t yet been treated to seminal hit A Horse With No Name. The band reemerges, “Apparently we forgot one!” The evening is complete as the audience erupts in sing-along frenzy. “Forty years I’ve been waiting to see them,” sighs a woman swooning her way out into the rainy Melbourne evening. America are a truly impressive phenomenon: this machine shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.