Fans brave winter weather for America performance

America gives its fans a sampler of music by evenly varying well-known tracks with songs that did not grow to be as popular as others did over the decades.

A few inches of snow did not stop America fans from making the sloppy trek to the Shippensburg University H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

Contrary to the wintry weather that flurried outside, the heat-trapping doors of the Luhrs Center thawed concert-goers with a warm embrace as they meandered into the theater’s lulling hum of chatter in anticipation of the classic-rock band.

Assuming their positions on the darkened stage, original America band members, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, along with newer additions Andy Barr, Rich Campbell and Rylan Steen, were met with the audience’s whooping applause and the harsh glow of stage lights. The band launched its set list with “Tin Man” from its 1974 album “Holiday,” and 1982 single, “You Can Do Magic.”

“We’re going to relive our youth,” Bennell said to the audience, referring to the forthcoming songs. “It’s something we do every night, actually.”

Throughout the show, America jumped through the decades — playing everything from fan favorites “Ventura Highway” and “Sister Golden Hair,” to what the band referred to as obscure songs from albums that did not rally up as much exposure as others. Some of the less familiar songs that America performed included “Greenhouse” from its 1994 album “Hourglass,” and the song “Monster” which debuted in 1977 on “Harbor.” 

Gifting fans two jukebox gems during the second half of the set list, America covered “California Dreamin’,” which was most popularly performed by The Mamas & the Papas, and The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” These songs held deep sentimental value for Beckley and Bunnell, who grew up listening to and playing them when they were teenagers. Keeping the catchy tune alive in their youthful hearts, America band members recorded a cover of “California Dreamin’” for the soundtrack of a motion picture in the 1970s.

Beckley and Bunnell were merely 17 and 18 years old when they founded America with their bandmate Dan Peek. They admitted to the crowd that when they started out, they did not expect the musical entity that they built from the ground as children would become a 48-year-long-and-counting venture, but they are not dissatisfied with how time transpired. 

“As long as you guys keep on coming, we’re going to keep playing, OK?” the duo concurred. 

Making certain that fans would depart with feelings of fulfillment rather than dissatisfaction, America backtracked to another hit song, “Sandman,” and fans rose in ovation. Following the upbeat performance of “Sandman” with 1975 hit “Sister Golden Hair,” fans remained on their feet and buzzed with excitement. 

However, the conclusion of “Sister Golden Hair” curtailed the palpable energy that radiated in the crowd as America abruptly ditched the stage, signifying the show’s conclusion. A few fled their seats in acceptance, but many lingered and raised their voices to clamor in unison. 

Shortly thereafter, America returned to the stage equipped with the same instruments as when they left, and faces beaming with amused expressions. The band asked the remaining fans, “Did you think we forgot one?” 

Answering the question themselves before a stray fan could shout out an obvious “YES,” the band played its No. 1 billboard hit, “A Horse With No Name” as an encore, and the crowd chimed along. 

“Remember always Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, America loves you,” the band said at the end of the show. And so, fans shielded themselves with their coats, gloves and hats, to fight off the inescapable cold kiss of snow that awaited them outside Luhrs’ heat-trapping doors.

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