Vince Gill (& Friends) Light Up The Night

  • Thursday, June 14, 2007
  • Jay Mouton

I’ve been following this guy for a long time, and Wednesday night at Riverbend he reminded me why. I remember back when I was in college, and playing at local clubs all over Murfreesboro, even at that time some of the local country acts were trying to emulate Vince Gills trademark tenor, but to little avail – the guy is hard to beat. Well, Vince still has the pipes, and he gave all of us in attendance at the ‘bend a wonderful dose of his aural medicine.

One of the things about Vince Gill that I always liked was his personable way. I suppose, over the years, I’d seen or heard maybe a dozen interviews with the man, and I’d never heard him utter a word that only an overly sensitive, politically correct OCD patient could construe as, well, mean spirited (and I’ve heard dozens of mean spirited, and down right nasty attitude interviews with dozens of musicians – not Vince Gill). But this little write-up is about more than the man’s likeability quotient; it’s about the music he made for the Riverbend crowd.

It doesn’t seem so long ago, but I know it has to be at least close to 10 years when I was watching CMT videos and I caught Vince and friends performing “One More Last Chance.” Now, I know that it takes a lot of work to put a music video together, but everybody on that one sure looked like they were having a great time of it. Vince and crew opened with this old hit, and it was great to hear his guitar playing rip right into a mover like Last Chance, and he established his guitar mastery immediately.

After some hellos and shout outs to the Riverbend crowd, Vince and the band launched into one of my favorite early songs of his, “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slipping Away.” One of the things that I always found amazing about Gill’s vocals on this song (hell, all of his songs, really) is just deceptively simply his vocals sound hitting those superb, higher register notes. Love Start Slipping Away is the song that really got me hooked on this guy’s talent. His lead guitar work on the song was another treat.

After wrapping up his next number, Gill’s “Oklahoma Borderline,” Vince made use of another of his trademarks, his easy going manner with a small comment of the numerous variety of bug we have here on the River when he quipped that he had already eaten “38 bugs in three songs.” This got a good round of applause from the audience that was really starting to warm up to the man about this time.

Gill’s onstage musical lineup was impressive; I counted eleven souls, and that was a quick look over, but there may have been more. His musical cohorts included all the usual suspects such as guitar, bass, drums, keys, and back-up vocals, but as an added treat he included a brass section, which I believe he referred to as Sapphire Blue Horns, but don’t quote me on this one. It would be impossible for Vince Gill to perform the bulk of his numbers without the powerful nuances of harmonies his songs are often filled with, and this concert was no exception – the back up singers were of the highest caliber, as were the musicians. Over the years I’ve read a number of reviews of Gills shows, but I can’t recall ever reading one in which the reviewer found fault with the caliber of musicians and vocalists Vince uses during his shows, and Riverbend 2007 was no exception to the high level of musical gifts abundant on the stage.

Vince and friends played a number of songs off his newly released CD, “These Days.” I checked on his website, and unless I misread the press, the CD has just over 40, original songs – WOW! That’s quite a number and during the show he played about half a dozen of those new songs, and I heard not one note that wasn’t a pleasure. I’m not gushing here folks; it’s just that the man puts out some fine, true music. He’s not limited by a genre; he covers a number of musical tastes, directions, and ideas.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the evening came when the Bluegrass guns opened up on us. Gill and friends did a couple of pure bluegrass numbers including one gospel oriented number called “All Prayed Up,” and again the music was simply pleasure to the ears. Gill played the mandolin (he’s a proficient musician on a number of instruments), and the sound of the banjo and fiddle were enough to get even more response from the crowd.

The big number of the evening for me, and possibly a large number of others last night was “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” I had a dear friend of mine in attendance with me, and I commented to her that this particular song was probably becoming one of the most common songs played, next to Amazing Grace, at funerals in the United States. I know that another dear friend of mine lost her father about seven years ago, and she had this song played at his funeral. Several years later, my dear friend was killed in a house fire, and I’ve often thought that she would have loved to have had this same song playing for her when they laid her to rest. Go Rest High is the kind of song that will be with our culture for years to come, I’m sure of it. The simple lyrics that hit the heart of all who take the time to listen contain so much of the soul of what many go through when they lose beloved individuals through life. I’d read in one of Vince’s interviews that he had written the song for his brother, who had died sometime earlier, but the song has a universal appeal to all who open their hearts to the tenderness and strength in this masterpiece.

I’m not going to leave you on that melancholy note – not at all. The show must, and does go on. I know that if Vince Gill plays another Riverbend sometime down the road, I’ll be counted in his audience, and I’ll be cheering along with everyone else.

Jay Mouton

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