It's always a pleasure to see a show at the Grand Old Opry. Tonight was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Rounder Records with performances from an eclectic mix of their artist catalog. The night's line up is as follows: Minnie Driver, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, Bela Fleck, Irma Thomas, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Alison Krauss and Union Station.
After being told that we were participating in the PBS filming, and doing some staged applause, Minnie Driver's band started things off. Her non-unique set of chick singer/songwriter material had me wondering if she would be on Rounder if she wasn't a moviestar, even after she said she'd been a musician longer than an actress. Her stage presence was a little awkward and her mumbled chatter between songs made her seem shy and intimidated. However, when she stepped over to her mark to be filmed as host of the evening, she read those lines and improvised like a pro. That was more her element. I love that Minnie Driver, but stick to the movies.
Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas were an energetic New Orleans band that got the mostly long in the tooth crowd up for at least a song. These guys, as well as the soul legend Irma Thomas were fun to watch, but probably would have been much better at a smokey bar in the gulf. The t.v. volume and mix put sort of a damper on what should have been a huge sound from both acts. I did enjoy Irma's rendition of "you can have my husband but leave my man alone", a song she performed as an audition for the label when she was a teenager. She really can belt it out, and her veteran band was smokin'.
Bela Fleck played a couple of his new "African" songs solo and then was joined by dobro sensation Jerry Douglas for their usual duet selection. There might not be a better banjo player than Bela on Earth. His music has never been my cup of beer but I can respect his undeniable talent. I guess that goes for Mary Chapin Carpenter as well. I know there's a market for her, I'm just not it. Neither was the old guy next to me who actually fell asleep with his head back and his mouth open. To be fair I think he could've been more drunk than bored. He slept for a while.
Alison Krauss was brilliant as usual. Her angelic voice sounds great even when she's just talking to the crowd. Union Station was solid featuring Jerry Douglas. Their short set went from "songs about bad things" to sentimental ballads that made the lady in front of me cry. Pretty good stuff. After sitting through some more Hollywood production, which included a cruel Robert Plant tease, the whole lot of performers came out to encore with a medley of standard gospel tunes including "will the circle be unbroken" and "down by the riverside".
The television aspect sort of hindered this show's rhythm. With each act only playing 3 or 4 songs, it seemed as though the sets were over just as they were getting good. The fact that there was just as much wait time as there was show time made it hard to sit still and pay attention. It should however make for some great public T.V.
Huge thanks for the ticket hook up.