Live Review: America, Matt Whipkey at The Holland Center…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:10 pm June 19, 2022
America at The Holland Performing Arts Center, June 18, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

What are you going to be doing at age 70? Would you be satisfied flying around he country to venues like The Holland Performing Arts Center (or Memorial Park, for that matter) playing songs you wrote 50 years ago to people who just want to hear the songs you wrote 50 years ago?

Sounds pretty good to me, though at what point do become more of a performer than an artist? The last studio album by America, who played at Holland Center Saturday night, was Lost & Found, released in 2015, and included tracks recorded as far back as 2000. And their Holland set included the album’s opening track, “Driving.”

But looking around at the audience made up mostly of fans who could have bought their ‘70s albums when they were first released, I wondered how many wanted to hear anything other than the hits.

And man, America has a lot of them. They kicked off the night with “Tin Man” from their ’74 album Holiday, which was followed by “You Can Do Magic” from their ’84 album View from the Ground (and their last big U.S. hit), and then my personal fave, “Daisy Jane,” from ’75’s Hearts.

Looking like a hip college professor, co-frontman Gerry Beckley, age 69, handled most of the vocals alongside Dewey Bunnell (the guy on the Horse with No Name, age 70), and both sounded in fine voice, backed in harmonies by three other latter-day traveling members. The third original core member of America, Dan Peek, passed away in 2011, but had left the band in ’77 never to return.

Surprisingly Beckley and Bunnell never mentioned their old compatriot, though he was seen in some of the vintage images shown on the big screen throughout the set. I guess when you play 100 shows a year for 52 years, mentioning an old band member every night would get redundant, though last night’s gig was likely the first time many in the audience have seen America perform.

The show is part of the 50 Year Anniversary Tour, no longer marking 50 years of America, but 50 years of their debut album, released in ’71. To celebrate, the band played three songs from the debut in succession, including their first hit, “I Need You.” If you’re my age, you’d recognize it immediately.

They were followed by one of their most popular hits, “Ventura Highway,” (no doubt the influence to “Theme from The Californians”). It’s FM gold, and the crowd went wild. Then came old sad sack “Lonely People,” which would be the last hit for awhile, as the band then played a number of songs I didn’t recognize. The crowd responded respectfully, waiting patiently for the next hit.

Instead, the got a cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” in honor of Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday, as well as a cover of “California Dreaming.” This is how you fill a 90-minute set, but let’s be honest, the crowd would have been just as happy to only hear the hits and those covers, which alone would encompass 11 songs — just the right length for a park festival, but maybe not long enough for a theater gig like this (though I would have happy).

In the end, the fans got what they wanted, as the set closed with anti-war song “Sandman” and mega-hit “Sister Golden Hair,” that got them on their feet. The band left their biggest hit of all, “Horse with No Name,” as the encore (of course).

Matt Whipkey at The Holland Performing Arts Center, June 18, 2022.

Opening the show was singer/songwriter local hero Matt Whipkey, who made the most of his just over 30-minute set. With acoustic guitar and accompanied on keyboards by longtime sideman Scott Gaeta, Whipkey charmed an audience of strangers with songs off his recent album, Hard, as well as a few chestnuts (such us my all-time fave of his, 2008’s “Separation,” which kicked off the set at 7 p.m. sharp).

You’d expect to see some nerves showing from a guy who typically plays to crowds of 100 or so at local bars, now standing in the spotlight in front of a few thousand. But Whipkey made it look like a walk in the park, getting the crowd laughing between songs, even making fun of the giant “Matt Whipkey” sign that blared behind him throughout the set.

Paraphrasing here, Whipkey quipped, “I love playing at O’Leaver’s, it’s one of my favorite places, but this is a little bit better,” with Gaeta quickly adding, “It smells better, too.”

The highlights included “Mayday” and “Overboard” from Hard, “Underwater” from the album of the same name, super-old song “17,” and his cover of “Drive My Car,” also dedicated to McCartney (afterward, I heard some guy behind me playing the Beatles’ version on his phone). It was a great way to kick off the evening, and another in a series of career highlights for Whipkey.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment