Original review, complete with photographs.
The Horse With No Name took flight on this spectacular night
Vancouver B.C. has the reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it certainly was for at least one memorable night (May 5, 1997) as America and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra combined their supreme talents for a marvelous performance.
The home of the VSO, the lavish Orpheum Theater in downtown Vancouver was the perfect site for the concert, with its impressive crystal chandeliers, plush red carpets and seats, ornate designs, and excellent acoustics.
The America/VSO concert proved once again the maxim that success breeds more success, and the world reknown VSO and approximately 70 members were united with one of the most illustrious and dynamic groups in rock and roll history. The end result was predictable.......a FIRST CLASS night thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by a packed theater.
This concert was a unique opportunity and challenge for America in the respect that they have only performed four live symphony concerts in 27 years, so this required some special preparation.
America enlisted one of the brilliant rising young stars in the music industry, Jose Herring, to orchestrate the songs and also to conduct the VSO. Jose is a recent graduate of the Julliard School of Music in New York and has worked musically with America before, and on other projects such as movie soundtracks. His professionalism and leadership abilities were very apparent as he took control of the VSO and quickly gained their respect and confidence.
On Monday afternoon, the day of the concert, America and VSO held a practice session at the Orpheum that set the tone for the main event. They practiced each America/VSO song on the playlist, and stopped repeatedly to get the timing and sound down to perfection. It was amazing to witness how quickly it all came together, and it was apparent this would be an astounding performance in the evening.
There was a certain healthy tension in the air during practice, as America, Jose, and the VSO were challenged as professionals to rise to the occasion and blend as one. It was also interesting to walk around the Orpheum, and listen to the practice from up front, mid-way back, and in the balcony, because it sounded a little different from each area. Up in front it was more America, and less strings, but in back, the sound blended together more.
The concert began at 8 pm, with Jose taking the stage and leading the VSO through two selections, and then America walked onstage and was greeted warmly. The VSO began playing Miniature, which is a lead for Tin Man, which was Americas first number. Deweys vocals were perfect, and the symphony added depth to this classic song.
Old Man Took was next, which also was given a new dimension with strings in the background, while Dewey's vocals were crisp and clear as ever. The dream concert began to take shape on these highly successful beginnings.
Some concert highlights that soon followed were.............................
HOPE: Appropriately, Gerrys Grammy nominated song Hope was the most powerfully enhanced song by string accompaniment on the playlist, and was a true favorite of the audience. There was no doubt why this song was honored by the Grammy committee, and the VSO helped place Hope in perfect context
LAST UNICORN: In sparkling blue light........along with harps, bells, and strings and Gerrys rich vocals and piano, the Last Unicorn shined brightly as ever......stunning the audience.
SERGEANT DARKNESS: Strings added a new dimension to this compelling song by Gerry.
YOUNG MOON: Deweys hit from Hourglass, with a string introduction, was another big hit with the audience. The VSO helped bring out the best and brightest Young Moon, and proved quickly to the audience that, as the lyrics go, We are here.......in this moment.....shining twice as bright. This time.....it was obvious that America and the VSO were shining as brightly as any young moon.
America allowed their VSO buddies to relax and enjoy the show as they launched into a string of hits, including Woman Tonight and Riverside. It gave the audience a unique opportunity to contrast solo America with America and the VSO.
SANDMAN: Although not every symphony fan may have appreciated this, America turned up the volume and played their stirring rendition of Sandman, which soars higher and higher to new levels. This brought the audience quickly to their feet.
JOSE: Jose conducted the VSO with precision, making America and the VSO perform in synch and to perfection. He quickly won the crowd over with his bright smile and confident manner.
AMERICA'S PROFESSIONALISM: Although the symphony concert was a challenge to America and there was some initial nervousness at practice, America's professionalism took over, and Gerry and Dewey the guys performed with ease. Gerry and Dewey won the crowd over immediately with onstage comments and humor, and some America background info.
VANCOUVER SYMPHONY: The VSO performed impeccably all night with the quality and class that is expected of a world class symphony.
All too soon, it was time for Horse With No Name, which began with a beautiful horn introduction, and followed by a myriad of strings.
What was most impressive were the final series of thunderous standing ovations from the audience, which made it clear that America and the VSO truly won over the hearts of Vancouver.
On a personal note, this was a special night for my family and friends. My wife Mary and our children Carolyn, Kyle, and Carmen were able to attend, along with my Dad and Mom. It was my Dad that years ago said that he liked this new group America, and got me interested initially. This was my way of saying thanks to him........taking him to one of the classiest America concerts ever.
Many of my friends also attended. One of my best friends, who isn't particularly too fond of all music, had a great time, and said how much he enjoyed America. He even asked about the next concert in the Pacific Northwest. Now that was the ultimate compliment!!!!
Also, it was wonderful to have our very special friends from California, Kelly and Barb, up for the concerts. They really enjoyed Vancouver, and especially the opportunity to see America perform with the VSO.
Written by Rick Wahlgren
Last Revised: 9 January 1998