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Do Cross the River ..

July 12, 2011 - Phyllis Sigal
When the first words of the first song came out of their mouths, I thought, "Uh-oh. ... Another good band gone bad, with age." But I was wrong. As the members of America continued on with their concert at the Wheeling Island Showroom, they just sounded better and better.

They played the favorites: "Don't Cross the River," "Sister Golden Hair," "Tin Man," "Sandman," "Daisy Jane," "Ventura Highway," "Lonely People" ... they saved "Horse With No Name" for their encore.

They played some new stuff and some "I-didn't-know-you-played-that" stuff. In fact, they've got a new album being released this month. "Back Pages," according to the band's website, "is a rich, joyous collection of a dozen glimmering interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Jimmy Webb Mark Knopfler, as well as Fountains of Wayne, New Radicals and Gin Blossoms, among others." ... their chance to do some of their favorite covers.

America is celebrating 40 years together — Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley along with Dan Peek, who left in 1977, formed the band after meeting in a London high school back in the 1960s. The trio won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1972. And just last month, they were selected to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

During the concert, they mentioned their friend Bill Crook, who is from our neck of the woods and makes custom guitars and basses. in fact, Brad Paisley is known for playing Crook original guitars. Crook toured as America's sound engineer for close to two decades.

And while Dewey and Gerry have stayed together for 40 years, the band's drummer Wil Leacox has been along for the ride for 39 years. Another band member has been a part of America for 22 years.

Forty years later, and they're still doing what they love to do. How great is that.

The concert was sandwiched between two other enjoyable experiences at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.

We stopped at The Point for dinner before the show. Our Enjoy Book $30-off coupon lured us there.

I've eaten there a couple of other times and have been pleased, but this time was exceptional.

I had the best Caesar salad I've ever had at a restaurant. Presented on a beautiful, white, shallow bowl were two halves of a head of romaine. The bowl had been swirled with the dressing, so that you could scoop as much or as little as you wish. A couple of anchovies, a mound of olive tapenade, home-made croutons and a handful of micro-greens accompanied the salad. It was delicious, and a bargain at $7. It is definitely big enough for sharing.

I ordered the lamb lollipops appetizer as my dinner, and it also was presented artfully. Four chops, grilled to a perfect medium rare, were served on a rectangular platter. Two were accompanied by a sun-dried tomato pesto, while the other two came with a mint pesto. Delicious. After the huge Caesar and four raw oysters, I could only eat two of the chops. The appetizer portion — priced reasonably at $14 — was definitely a generous serving.

Wine pours also were generous, and several wines were available by the glass for between $7 and $10.

The service, too, was excellent. The staff was knowledgeable, attentive and pleasant. I have to admit, the entrees, all served a la carte, are a bit on the pricey side. But I'm looking forward to returning for another Caesar and some lamb lollipops — even without my Enjoy discount.

On the back end of the concert, we stopped to listen to The Fabulous Bender Boys, playing in the Casino.

They ARE fabulous. What a group of talented guys, with years of experience under their belts.

You can hear them at Jamboree In The Hills at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, July 17. Pick up a copy of their new CD — just released July 12 — "Partners, Brothers & Friends" at any of their live shows or at C.A. House in St. Clairsville.

A night out in the Ohio Valley — three thumbs up for this one!


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