I spent Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry, and wanted to offer a couple of observations on what I saw and heard:
The attendance was pretty good for the 1st show. I would say around 3500. The lower level was about filled and the balcony had people sitting in all sections except for the upper balcony in the wings. The 2nd show was a different story. I would say about 1000-1200. The lower level had section 3, 4 and 5 filled to about the middle, while the side and back sections, except for a scattering of people, were basically empty. The lower balcony had people seated in it, but the upper balcony was all but empty. From what I heard, the Friday crowd was pretty good, up around 3500.
With Opry Mills back open again, the traffic getting in and out of the Opry was very heavy and the parking spaces available were in the back areas of the parking lot. I do believe that the Opry needs to work with the mall to block off a section of parking closer to the Opry House just for the Opry. Those few coming to the 2nd show had a serious walk.
Jimmy Dickens looked and sounded great. I know he had missed a few weeks and sounded pretty bad prior to that. He came back last week so I was curious to see if he would hold up 2 weeks in a row, with 3 shows for the weekend. He did fine. I will also say that Connie Smith, Jeannie Seely, Bill Anderson and Jimmy C Newman, which comprised the legends who appeared on Saturday night, all looked and sounded great also.
This was the 1st time that I saw Hunter Hayes. Let's just say that the young girls loved him. He is about 20 or 21 and looks 15. He stood next to Jimmy Dickens at one point and looked like he was only an inch or two taller than Jimmy. But, he had a good time. He has a following and really played up to the crowd. He also stated that this weekend was the first time that the Opry allowed him to use his own band. I found that comment interesting.
Gary Morris was very good. He looked like he just walked out of a bar after sitting on a stool for 10 years. In other words, very rough. But, appearances can fool you and his voice was awesome as he sang 2 ballads. Part of the reason why the shows ran long was because he took a long time singing his songs. Lonestar was also very well received. And they sang a couple of their hits which fans immediately recognized. That is important to me as I hate to go to the Opry, spend a lot of money on tickets, and then the act sings a song you never heard of before.
Suzy Bogguss is great. There is no other words to describe her. Her voice is crystal clear and she has aged well, if you know what I mean. She seemed to enjoy the Opry and I know she has made several appearances over the past year. She was cut to 1 song during the 1st show and did 2 on the second.
And, speaking of the length of the show. There were 2 shows on Saturday night, which meant that the first show had a time limit. After the 2nd segment of the show, which featured Gary Morris and Hunter Hayes, the show was running about 20 minutes long. And that meant cuts. The Whites, Suzy Bogguss and Connie Smith were each cut to 1 song. And it seemed like Ricky Skaggs really moved through his second song. Even with that, the show ran about 5-10 minutes over. The second show ran over by about 15 or 20 minutes. Nothing wrong with that. And I don't know about anyone else, but when there are 2 shows on Saturday night, I seem to enjoy the 2nd show much better. It was the same entertainers as the first show, but the pace seemed slower and the artists were able to enjoy themselves more
I mentioned Ricky Skaggs, and no he has not cut his hair and he did not lose any weight. But Ricky is still Ricky and the fans enjoyed him. And during the 2nd show, Connie Smith and Buck White came out and joined the square dancers. Nice to see that, especially at their age. And I do enjoy when artists come out and join the dancers.
My other mention is the shame of the Opry in allowing the legends to sing only 1 song while allowing some of the guest artists to do more. For example, on Friday night, Jesse McReynolds and Bobby Osborne were each allowed to do only 1 song while Hunter Hayes did 3. On Saturday night, Jimmy C Newman did just 1 song on each show, the same as The Whites and Connie Smith.
Many of us thought there was less music on the Opry these days and Saturday seemed to confirm it. During the first show, there were 12 artists. Those 12 artists did a total of 18 songs, plus one more if you count the square dancing. We did get 21 songs on the 2nd show, but those are pretty low numbers.
Bobby G. Rice hosted the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree and did a very nice job. He should have been on the Opry also.
I did find it interesting that hardly a word was said about Keith Urban joining the Opry. There were no big announcements at the Opry House or a push to sell tickets, although I am sure both shows this Saturday will be sell-outs. But tickets were available.
To sum up the weekend, it was not the best Opry show I ever saw, but it was not the worst. The artists all performed well and everyone seemed to have a great time. I enjoyed the weekend and will be back soon.