This past weekend, February 5 & 6, I spent the weekend in Nashville and attended both Grand Ole Opry shows during the weekend. I just wanted to recap what I saw and heard over my 3 days in the music city and a review of the Opry shows.
The Friday Night Opry on February 5 was a very good show. The Opry house was about half full, with the lower level pretty filled up and the balcony had people sitting only in the lower center section. However, the energy of the crowd was very good and they were generous in their applause and enthusiasm for the artists.
The first segment featured Riders In The Sky as the hosts and their guests were Jim Ed Brown and The Whites. The Riders In The Sky are excellent hosts and not only sing great but have good harmony. Jim Ed did "Pop A Top" as one of his two songs and The Whites did two songs also. All of the artists on the first segment looked and sounded great.
The second segment featured Jimmy Dickens and I was anxious to see how he looked and sounded, as he had been off the Opry for two weeks. On Friday, he looked excellent and had a lot of pep. His voice held up very good. He was moving around the stage and coming to the edge of the stage during the commerical breaks and shaking hands and standing for photos, to the point that one of the security guards came down to send people away. His guests were Bobby Osborne and his group and they did Rocky Top. Bobby looked good, but had no voice and Bobby Osborne Jr. did the singing. Chris Young, one of the newcomers to country music was on and did a fine job. The female fans loved him.
The third segment had Bill Anderson as the host and he looked very good, but his voice was a little horse also. Connie Smith did two songs and looked fantastic. In fact, it looked like she had lost a little weight. Keith Anderson did two songs and in many ways was very similar to Chris Young.
Mike Snider finished out the show by hosting the final segment. Jack Greene looked and sounded great on "Statue of a Fool". Stonewall Jackson sounded great on "Standing Invitation", but he looked very ragged on stage and at one point seemed a little confused. Josh Turner was just fantastic and drew the loudest crowd reaction of the night. And, I have to admit of all the newcomers in country music, I enjoy Josh the best.
All in all, Friday night was a very good show.
As far as Saturday night, the crowd was maybe a bit larger than on Friday night, but lacked a lot of energy during the first half of the show. It was not until Sandi Patty came on that the crowd really came alive.
The first segment was hosted by Jimmy Dickens, and he just seemed tired and the voice was not nearly as strong as on Friday night. He did not joke as much as on Friday and did not move up to talk to the audience. After seeing him on Friday and Saturday, I almost want to say that he is fine doing one show a weekend, but I think two shows is taking it out of him. Also, Saturday was very cold in Nashville, so it is possible that the weather was bothering him. Jeannie Seely did one song and looked and sounded very good and Chris Young did the same two songs that he did on Saturday night.
The second segment was hosted by Mike Snider. Jean Shepard did two songs and she sounded good but looked a little haggard. George Hamilton came out next and Mike noted that it was his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. There was no special applause from the crowd and that was just not right. I, along with about three other people, stood up and that was it. Just a shame. After his first song, Pete Fisher came out and was very nice in his comments and presented George with the usual railroad watch and framed poster. Again, no real enthusiasm from the crowd. (More on this at the end). George looked and sounded great.
The third segment was hosted by Jim Ed, with Jimmy C. Newman and Sandi Patty as the guests. Jim Ed was fine and Jimmy C. Newman looked and sounded good. Sandi Patty was awesome!!! This was the first time she had ever been on the Opry and she put on a show with her two songs. The crowd woke up and gave her a standing ovation. It was the first time I had ever seen her in person and the range of her voice was just something to see and hear. The square dancers did their usual good job.
The final segment was hosted by Bill Anderson, who's voice was much better than on Friday night. Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys (and girl), did one song and were fine. Then came the Oak Ridge Boys. For those who have seen the Oaks on the Opry before, you know that they just love the Opry and the crowd loves them. Three songs including Elvira and Bobbie Sue, and two standing ovations later, they left the stage. They were great, with William Lee Golden coming down into the crowd. They should be Opry members!!! I know that they have been asked, but have declined due to other committments.
As a wrap up to Saturday, like I said before, the crowd just did not seem to have a lot of enthusiasm and energy until Sandi Patty came out. But, still a good show.
As far as a couple of other comments:
>I was very disappointed over the reaction to George Hamilton IV. As a 50 year Opry member, he deserved more. Not only that, but there was not article in the Nashville Tennessean until Monday, there was no special mention of his achievement in the Opry program, or even before the show. This is becoming a pattern at the Opry. It was the same deal with Billy Grammer, Jean Shepard, Charlie Louvin and Jimmy C. Newman. But, for Porter Wagner, the Opry devoted an hour to him and really built it up. Granted, Porter is a bigger star than some of the others listed, but all of them have remained loyal to the Opry and have served the Opry well. Getting the recognition that they did from Pete Fisher was fine, but anyone who makes it 50 years should have an entire segment devoted to them.
>I already commented on Jimmy Dickens. Friday night he looked and sounded great. Saturday, he looked a little tired and the voice was not there. Perhaps one show a weekend would work for him for a while. I just don't see him getting any better as his age is working against him.
>Chris Young and Keith Anderson were fine, but they are cookie-cutter people who are influenced by Garth Brooks. They were both very respectful of the Opry, but they sounded basically the same, had the same type of hat, the tight tee shirt, and the same mannerisms on the guitar as Garth. Josh Turner, on the other hand, has a different voice and a different look on stage. Perhaps that is why he is, and will be, the bigger star.
>My wife attended with me this weekend. She gets to the Opry maybe once every five years. Her last show was the birthday celebration and before that it was the 80th birthday. She knows country music, but is not a true country music fan. To be honest, she is a "deadhead". I asked her who impressed her the most over the weekend, and she said it was Jack Greene, doing "Statue of a Fool". She said he sang it with feeling and emotion and looked just great standing still on the stage singing it. She also said Stonewall sounded great, but was shocked at how he looked. As you would expect, the Oak Ridge Boys impressed her also. I also asked her about the length of the show, as two hours still seems short to me. But, she suprised me by saying that as a casual fan, two hours was good, and the shows had a good flow to them. Of course, when I told her the ticket price, she had a different reaction. She said for the entertainment that was there, it was overpriced. She said all of the acts were good, but at $54.00, not such a good value.
The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree was hosted by bluegrass star Larry Stephenson. He was very good and George Hamilton IV was on to do a song. Jan Howard and Jim Ed Brown were there also, but did not sing. The Midnight Jamboree have George more recognition than the Opry did. Keith Bilbrey was there and said a few words and he will be the announcer on next week's show. That will be good to hear.
All in all, a good weekend. I did get some pictures that I will send as soon as I figure out my disc. I will also add a few more comments in the coming days and will be happy to answer any other comments that come up.