THE WHISKY is not the ideal club for the debut of an acoustic band; one whose demands on its audience are more cerebral than physical. Even a blunt request by the management that the audience remain seated and preferably silent during this “listening set” didn’t stop the low mumble and constant shuffling. But, America did surpass it. They also dismissed any accusations that they are merely a Neil Young “rip-off” with a fluke single.
At several times while waiting to get inside I heard obnoxiously loud doubts of America’s veracity and even one girl leaving the first show felt the need to roll down her car window and inform the crowd “that’s a boring show.” Maybe it’s just because I’ve listened many times to America’s record and decided early that they were no fluke; and anyway, to me, sounding like Neil Young or even approaching his territory is hardly something to be suspicious of, but I found their craft, performance and, most impressive, harmonies almost perfect.
The act is comfortable and confident; as if they’d planned all this was going to happen to them when they moved to London five years ago. The set itself was a might short, 10 songs and only 3 of which weren’t on the record; ‘Submarine Ladies’ was the only number that featured an electric instrument (bass), ‘Don’t Cross Your Mother’ and a short version of ‘Comin’ into Los Angeles’. Arlo Guthrie was quietly ushered in shortly before they interrupted a song to do it, but we were told that was pure coincidence. I was sure it was a planned tribute triggered by some invisible signal that Arlo was there, but evidently it is a regular part of their show. Finest side of the set, of course, was ‘Horse With No Name’. Just as the selection is the best on their LP.
As far as I’m concerned America passed every test but duration, and no doubt their winning that battle is near. It was pleasingly unusual that they didn’t introduce themselves individually and only made one reference to who wrote a particular song. Sometimes I found it difficult to tell who was singing and only on ‘Horse With No Name’ discovered which member sounds like Neil Young. I trust their separate personalities, talents and even their names will wait a while before becoming known. I’d like to see what America can do before I have to deal with a new batch of solo artists.
© Jeff Walker, Phonograph Record, April 1972