There has been a lot of discussion going on regarding this past weekend's Opry shows, specifically the appearance by The Dobbie Brothers and Keb' Mo', so I thought for what it is worth, I would add my observations and comments.
I did not attend either show this weekend, but like many of you, I did listen to both nights, Friday and Saturday. And I have to tell you that in my opinion, the shows were excellent. Some weekends the line-ups are just plain weak, and I hate to say that. I base that comment on the fact that the Opry is charging $54 for a prime ticket. For that price, I would expect a strong line-up every week. This past weekends line-up was a strong one, worth the $54 price.
On Friday night, Marty Stuart hosted the first segment and was excellent, as usual. Connie Smith and Bobby Osborne, both Opry veterans, performed crowd favorites. The final artist for that first segment was Mark Chesnutt, a country music veteran. He has been on the Opry before and I would love to see him do the Opry more often as the crowd responded well to him and I think he gets the importance of playing the Opry.
Jimmy Dickens hosted the 2nd half hour and sounded no worse than he has of late. Usually when he hosts a segment, he has only 2 guests, one an Opry veteran who does one song and then an artist who will do 2. This gives Jimmy time to not only sing, but to do his standard jokes. This weekend, he had 3 performers on both of his segments, which meant very few jokes, which was fine. He did have a little trouble with Riders In The Sky. Again, the segment was excellent.
After intermission, Bill Anderson did his usual fine job, and Neal McCoy was very good. I have seen Neal on the Opry before and he really has fun and gets the crowd into it. You can feel the energy from him. Gretchen Wilson really is country and sounds it.
The final segment on Friday night was hosted by Opry favorite Vince Gill. Counting Saturday night, Vince has done the Opry 6 times so far in 2011. After a drop in appearances last year, it is good to see Vince back on the Opry stage. The girls still love him. And, he had a couple of surprises not on the schedule, idol performers Crystal Bowersox and Bo Bice. Nice to hear Crystal on the Opry. I think she has a future in the music business. Vince broght on the Oak Ridge Boys. I know some disagree, but I do think they should be members of the Opry. They have been asked in the past, but have declined due to their heavy tour schedule. But, they do manage to play the Opry a couple of times each year. I have seen them on the Opry 3 times, and each time they have received a standing ovation. They are just so popular and they play their well loved hits. The energy is strong as they move around the entire stage. They were followed by Alison Krauss, with Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas and others. It was Alison's first Opry appearance since 2009 and you could tell that the audience was glad she was back and she seemed to appreciate being back on the Opry. She made several nice comments.
That brings us to Saturday night. The first segment was hosted as usual by Jimmy Dickens, with Jeannie Seely and Jimmy C. Newman, both veterans and both did a nice job. Then you had guests Joey+Rory. They have done the Opry numerous times and they are a very good duet, who did a couple of fine ballads. This was their first Opry appearance of the year and they were appreciated by the crowd.
Mike Snider hosted the 2nd segment and had Jean Shepard and Jim Ed Brown as his first 2 guests. Both sounded pretty good. Then he brought out The Dobbie Brothers, for their first Opry appearance, and the crowd was ready. What an ovation they received. They did 3 numbers and the audience was calling for an encore, which did not happen. And, the audience was singing along to their music. Now, there are many who feel that The Dobbie Brothers should not have been on the Opry. I thought about it, but I gotta tell you, they sounded more country than many of the country artists being played on country radio today. They seemed to appreciate being on the Opry and the reception they received. I don't want to see The Dobbie Brothers on every week, but once in a while, it is nice for the Opry to reach out on the edge of what is normally played on the Opry and take the opportunity to bring some new fans to the show. With the attendance down, the Opry needs to reach. A few weeks back, Wanda Jackson was on with Jack White, and they were well received. Of course, back in the 1970s, Porter Wagoner had on James Brown and also later in the decade, The Pointer Sisters made an Opry appearance. So, it is nothing new for the Opry to reach out. And, Mike Snider gave them a fine introduction.
Bill Anderson was again the host after intermission, with The Whites and Alison Krauss back on. Alison might have the sweetest voice in country/bluegrass music today. Outside of The Dobbie Brothers, I think she got the 2nd biggest ovation of the night.
Vince Gill started the final segment with one of his biggest hits, "Just Look At Us". A fine job. Sarah Darling was next and did a duet with Vince. She does a lot of the smaller clubs around Nashville and she does have a fine voice. Keb' Mo' was next, and I have to be honest on this one. Nothing personal, but I just did not care for him. Again, it was an opportunity for the Opry to reach out and the crowd did give him a good ovation.
With The Doobie Brothers, Keb' Mo', Wanda Jackson and the other non-traditional Opry acts that have appeared over the years, I often wonder if the artists reach out to the Opry or does Pete Fisher and the Opry reach out to them? I just can't believe Pete is sitting around his office one day and just calls out to his secretary, "Hey, give one of The Dobbie's a call and see if they are busy next Saturday night." I just don't think it happens that way.
I still think that the inconsistency of the Opry shows is an issue that needs addressed. This week's show was great, and next weekend looks fantastic also with Carrie Underwood, The Band Perry, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley appearing. Again, shows that should draw very well. We need to see line-ups like this every week, not every once in a while.
We'll, that is my opinion and observations on Friday and Saturday's Opry shows. Let me know what you think.