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Music Review: America – Live on the David Letterman Show

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Armed with a freshly popped bag of popcorn, I found myself settling down in front of my television Monday night, about to do something I rarely do. I was going to watch David Letterman’s show, and I was going to do it on purpose.

The reason I was going to brave scarring my eyes and ears with a predictably less-than-funny experience, was that the musical guest on last night’s program was none other than the band America. As if that wasn’t enough, America was going to be accompanied on stage by Ryan Adams and Ben Kweller as they performed the song “Ride On” from the new America album, Here and Now, which comes out today.

O’ how good intentions are soured by lame comedy.

From the opening monologue to the banter between Dave and his first guest, Amy Sedaris, I found myself repeatedly flipping between channels instead of having to actually watch what was going on. Looking back, I think the only thing that pulled me through was that HBO was showing Wedding Crashers in the same time-slot.

HBO, you’re my hero! I forgive you for ending Six Feet Under. Maybe.

Eventually, after a lackluster magician named Alan Kalter shared his amazingly magical card tricks with Dave and Amy (who stuck around to be awed by magic!), CBS showered me with an endless array of commercials. Who knew that many commercials could exist together without shredding the fabric of the space/time continuum?

Yes, I’m exaggerating. Sorry. It was only enough to mildly wrinkle it, not shred.

After a final barrage of a few dozen more commercials, the cameras rolled into position and America began to play. My sacrifice was worth it, it seemed. While I’d fallen in love with their new album, I’d admit to being more than a little nervous that the reason America still sounded as good as they did, was due to a bit of studio wizardry.

It wasn’t.

Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell sounded great; both their guitar playing and their voices were superb throughout the entire song. For a moment, even, I thought I felt goose pimples shoot up my arm while listening to them harmonize on the “Sha-la-la-la-las” that make up part of the chorus.

What was especially nice about this performance, was that the two “names” that were performing on stage with them, never seemed to want anything other than to put their heads down and simply enjoy playing and being on stage with Beckley and Bunnell. Their presence was felt, though, and added to the performance rather than distracted from it.

So often a guest-star will take center stage on a song. It was nice to see Adams and Kweller simply be content with helping to make the music better.

Ultimately, I’m glad I made it through the Letterman show until America took the stage. The band’s performance just added a little bit of sugar on top of the sweetness that they deliver in their new album, so it was worth it. My only complaint is that I now want to see them in concert, and I doubt they’ll come anywhere near my neck of the woods. Oh well…

Now, do yourself a favor and go out and buy Here and Now by America.

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About Michael Jones

  • CaptDan

    Great review! I was in the studio audience for that show and it was a terrific live performance. You should definitely get to a concert sometime! You won’t be sorry.

    I also think it’s great that young rockers like Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller, Matthew Caws of Nada Surf, Mark Rozzo of Maplewood, and others worked on this album because they are actually FANS of America. They seem truly happy to participate on this album and be part of America’s sound, not some bolted-on addition.