All Together Now




All For The Hall
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

There are some concerts you go to that simply couldn’t happen anywhere else. Keith Urban and Vince Gill’s annual “All For the Hall” benefit for the Country Music Hall of Fame is definitely one of those “only in Nashville” kind of events. They’ve become a kind of annual tradition for my wife and I. She has been to all three of the events, and while last year was my first, it’s turned into a show that I wouldn’t miss. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a huge country fan, but I’m definitely well versed enough to appreciate the history and reverence that these concerts promote. But you don’t have to be a music nerd to enjoy it. With a dozen plus acts and a pre-Ticketmaster ripoff… err, fees price of $35, the entertainment value would be a bargain at twice the price.

The theme of this year’s concert was “All Together Now,” and the advertised lineup featured all duos and groups. The mix of old(er) and new groups meant that there was no need for last year’s hook, when each performer did one of their own songs and then followed up with a cover from a hall of famer that they admired. There was plenty of history just with each performer doing two of their own songs. As usual, Urban kicked off the show with a brief set from his band, and then Gill took the mic and paid tribute to the groups concept of the evening by playing “Amie” from his Pure Prairie League days, and then gave a plug.

The newer groups on the bill were represented by Thompson Square, Little Big Town, The Band Perry, and Rascall Flatts, and though all were well received, they were definitely outshined by Lady Antebellum and Pistol Annies. In general though, the “old timers” got the biggest applause of the night. Diamond Rio were the first out of the gate, and though their set was well received, they simply got blown out of the water when the Oak Ridge Boys took the stage. You wouldn’t have expected four guys who are pushing 70 (William Lee Golden actually past that birthday three years ago) to have brought so much energy to the stage. Simply put, they killed with “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue.” Alabama went in the exact opposite direction energy wise, though their “unplugged” style takes on “Feels So Right” and “Lady Down on Love” were every bit as magical. Their harmonies sounded amazing.

Two of the advertised groups, Exile and Allison Kraus and Union Stations, were no shows, but in their place we got two special guests that more than made up for it. Midway through the show Don Williams came out to do “Imagine That” and “Tulsa Time.” But the hands down highlight of the evening was when Keith and crew brought out Merle Haggard. Being that he is The Hag, his set wasn't constrained to just two songs, and after tearing through "I'll Just Stay Here And Drink," "Today I Started Loving You Again," and "Working Man Blues," Urban staged a one man encore chant, and Haggard obliged with "Silver Wings."

The night ended on an odd note when all the performers returned to the stage for a ramshackle cover of The Beatle's "I Saw Her Standing There." Being that it was a benefit for the Country Music Hall of Fame, closing with a Brittish Invasion rock and roll hit seemed peculiar, but it captured the spirit of fun that these concerts are all about.

photo by Tonya Peacock

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