This past weekend, I was in Nashville and attended all 3 Opry shows. I wanted to offer a review of the shows and a few observations on what I saw and heard.
The Friday Night Opry's first segment was hosted by Jeannie Seely and she did a great job. She looked and sounded pretty good. Jimmy C. Newman did 2 songs and he also looked and sounded fine. A newer group, The Infamous Stringdusters did a couple of numbers. They are a bluegrass oriented group and did fine, and the Jeannie finished her segment with a fine duet.
The second segment was hosted by Jimmy Dickens. He looked great and was moving around on the stage and bantering with the audience. His voice was better than what I thought it would be, but still a little off. I don't know how it sounded on the radio, but it seemed like in the Opry House that they turned up the music a bit to cover his voice. Jesse McReynolds did one instrumental number, and there was no real audience reaction to the song. I like Jesse and his music, but he just did not pick out a good number for this show. Ashton Shepherd did a couple of songs and she is a fine, talented young singer that has been featured on the Opry several times. Jimmy finished off his segment with a final song.
Then came the intermission. It just killed the flow of the show. I would say about one-third of the crowd went out to get something, while the majority of the people stayed in their seats. They were not selling anything inside the auditorium, contrary to some of the rumors that I had heard. When the show restarted, not everyone was back in the auditorium, so some missed John Conlee's first song.
John Conlee hosted the next segment and he looked and sounded fine. He introduced Jean Shepard, who just did not look good at all. I found out later that she had been in the hospital earlier in the week, so that would explain that. She sounded fine and did one song. George Hamilton IV was good and then T. Graham Brown was next. He did 2 songs, including, "Tell It Like It Used To Be." The audience loved him. Lots of enthusiasm from him on stage. John finished his segment with a final song.
The last segment was Mike Snider and his guests were Jack Greene, who did two songs, and Gene Watson who did three. All sounded and looked good and were well received.
The Opry House was a little over half full for this show, with the lower level filled except for the ends and the balcony only having people in the lower, middle section. I was in the center section in the 3d row, so a good seat.
For the 1st show on Saturday night, the Opry House was pretty full, with only the upper balcony with empty seats. It was good to see the improved attendance. The first segment was hosted by Jimmy Dickens, and he sounded much better than he did on Friday night. Jimmy C. Newman and Emerson Drive were the guests and Emerson Drive was very well received.
The 2nd segment was hosted by Mike Snider and had Jeannie Seely and Jack Greene for one song each, and then a newcomer, Jerrod Niemann, making his first Opry appearance. He sounded very good and song a couple of nice country songs. He would appear to have a future in the business.
The next segment was hosted by Ricky Skaggs and if you have not seen Ricky lately, his hair is well past his shoulders. He could really use a haircut, but he seems to have adopted this style of look. Ricky did not have Kentucky Thunder with him and in fact, did not sing bluegrass. He sang a couple of his older, country hits. He sounded great. Jean Shepard and The Whites were next, and Jean looked a little better than on Friday Night. They also had a guest announcer from Arkansas, and I don't know how the rest of you feel, but I think they can do without these folks. I know it is a promotion to help the Opry sell tickets, but it just takes more time away from the music.
The final segment was hosted by Steve Wariner and it was just him without his band. Garrison Keillor from Prairie Home Companion was guest announcer during this segment as he had done his show from the Ryman Auditorium earlier in the evening and Steve was his musical guest. He was a great announcer, although he looked like an "odd" bird. I have listened to his show every once in a while, but this was the first time I had seen him in person. John Conlee and Connie Smith each did one song, and Connie looked great. Mandy Barnett finished out doing several songs. She is doing Patsy Cline again this summer at the Ryman, so I would expect her on the Opry more to promote the show. She looked stunning in a red dress and still has that great voice that you either like or hate.
The second Saturday show was almost two-thirds filled and I thought this show was the best of the weekend, and the crowd seemed more into this show than the other two. Jimmy Dickens again hosted the first segment, but his voice was just totally shot by this show. I would guess that one show per night is the limit for him. He also did very little comedy during this show, but he still looked great. Emerson Drive and Mandy Barnett were the guests.
Mike Snider, Jean Shepard and Merrod Niemann were on the next segment. They also had the guest announcer again, some local personality from Arkansas. Again, he spent so much time talking that it took away from the show to the point that the segment ran over and Mike did not do a final number. I don't mind when the guest announcer is a nationally known personality, but these local folks have got to go. They don't know when to shut-up, even though they have a script.
Ricky Skaggs was next and he had Jan Howard on. She featured the Carol Lee Singers during her songs and she sounded and looked great. Hard to believe she is 80. The Whites and the square dancers were also on and Buck White danced with the square dancers.
The final segment was hosted by Vince Gill. He was just absolutely great. Just him and his guitar, with limited back up from the Opry band. John Conlee and Connie Smith were his guests. Vince is looking more his age and wearing the glasses makes him look a bit older. But, his voice and the music.. just great and a standing ovation when he was done.
Overall, all three shows were pretty good and all the artists performed well.
I did pay the $5.00 and go into the Opry museum and see what improvements they made. If you have been in there before, you will know what I am talking about. They took down the Jim Reeves exhibit and added a exhibit for Porter Wagoner, which was well done, with lots of video from the TNN days. They also added an exhibit at the end that featured Carrie Underwood, Josh Turner and Montgomery Gentry. They also took out some of the older black and white photos and added some more recent colored ones. Finally, it appeared that they cleaned and updated a few of the other exhibits and all the videos were actually working. The museum was also cleaner. But, there were only about 10 people in it, an hour before the Opry. Many left when they found out it was no longer free. It is a good museum, but I would still like to see them have more exhibits featuring more of the legends from the earlier days of the Opry. Basically, there is nothing in the museum featuring Bill Monroe, Red Foley, Hank Snow, Grandpa Jones and many others. I would just like to see a few more updates.
All in all, a good weekend of shows.