Show Reviews

Show Review: Grand Ole Opry ft. Jameson Rodgers, Elvie Shane, Mark Wills, Dallas Wayne, and more!

 

GRAND OLE OPRY

Ft. Jameson Rodgers, Elvie Shane, Mark Wills, Dallas Wayne, and more!

Saturday May 7, 2022

@ Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, TN

(Review by: Jeffrey Kurtis)

When you first arrive and began to make your way up to the Grand Ole Opry House from the parking lot, you’re instantly greeted on the Opry Plaza by two larger than life guitar structures - one painted to reflect an electric and the another an acoustic - both providing the perfect photo opportunities for you to have something unique to add to your Nashville scrapbook when you return home from Music City.

While banners featuring the some of today’s hottest country music stars including Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Chris Janson, Luke Combs, and Carrie Underwood, adorn either side of the outside front of Opry House framing the main entrance, it’s the whispers of legends past that begin to surround you and speak volumes as you make your way through the entrance doors and into the hallowed ground that immediately heighten you awareness and tell you that you’re not just going to another concert tonight, but are about to be part of the fabrication of country music.

In its 96th year of operation, “the show that made country music famous” owns the honor of being the world’s longest running radio program, and it still airs live every Saturday night on the most famous call letters in country radio, WSM 650AM.

But when you’re there live and in person, the show that’s like no other knows all the different, crafty ways to amp up your excitement from the moment you walk through the doors and sit down on the church pew styled seats that line the Opry House – both upstairs and down.

A video package featuring collaborations that happened on the famous Opry stage plays on the big screen hanging directly in front of the curtain at the stage front and showcases Kelsea Ballerini teaming up with Little Big Town on “Girl Crush,” Darius Rucker getting with Old Crow Medicine Show for “Wagon Wheel,” etc.

Another video package runs a few minutes after that and highlights some of the historic on-stage moments that have happened there including Garth Brooks’ Opry debut, Dolly Parton singing “I Will Always Love You” to Porter Waggoner, and more!

As the clock winds closer to the show time of 7PM CST, you get one last video package that takes you straight into the circle through the eyes of today’s country stars – Ashley McBryde, Sam Hunt, Midland, Mitchell Tenpenny, Riley Green, and more – all talking about what stepping into the hallowed circle in center stage for the first time meant to them.

And then the lights inside the Opry House dim and the “On Air” signs on each side of the stage light up as the red curtain rises to start segment 1 of 2 as the Opry Square Dancers hit the stage, twirling in excitement as they kick the dust up and click their toes and heels against the wood grained stage while the fiddle saws and the house band blasts everything into high gear.

Mike Terry of WSM acts as the announcer for this evening’s performance and welcomes everyone to the 5,027 Saturday night performance of The Grand Ole Opry as the square dancers exit stage right.

“The Opry square dancers are one of the greatest Opry traditions,” begins Terry, and while the Grand Ole Opry absolutely stays richly rooted in their history and still brings it to life every Saturday night, they also continue to evolve by welcoming a healthy mix of new and old to the stage as their featured performers – something that was very evident during this running of the famed show.

Grammy winners, and 40-year Grand Ole Opry members, the Iconic singing cowboy act Riders in the Sky took the stage to open the music portion of the show, and they brought us straight out to the “Texas Plains” before allowing a bit of their sense of humor to shine.

“There was a time, if you remember, when country music was referred to as country and western music, began Ranger Doug, as Too Slim then explain, “yes, and now we’re the western 1%.”

Satisfying a crowd request, they delivered “Old New Mexico,” before pausing to talk about working with Disney on the famous Toy Story movie soundtracks, prompting a conversation about being in a media room atmosphere at the Grammy Awards with all the big artists that saw Woody Paul (the group’s fiddle player) dip in with “we were the only people in the room I didn’t know,” and caused Too Slim to not only talk about being by the punch bowl with Eminem, but to also showcase his own rapping skills that perfectly played off his “slim” name and ended with him slapping his cheeks to play his face as an instrument causing a cheer to erupt from the crowd.

A medley of songs the group had done for the films followed and delighted the crowd (young and old), “Woody’s Roundup,” “Jessie the Yodelin’ Cowgirl,” and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” before their time on stage came to a close with one big sing along with the crowd on the Roy Rogers classic, “Happy Trails.”

“Earlier today country music lost a legend,” Mike Terry solemnly said. “Mickey Gilley passed away at 86 years young and we want to take a moment to pause and honor him here tonight,” which was followed by a deafening silence that hushed over the crowd in respect of the icon as his image flashed up on the screen on the stages backdrop.

Leah Turner, who first rose to prominence with her songs “Take the Keys” and “Pull Me Back,” has carved out her path in recent years by embracing her rodeo upbringing and Latin heritage and wearing it proudly on her sleeve; something she put well on display during her two songs.

Blending the English and Spanish languages fluently into one another, she took the stage with “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” before pausing to talk about her parents and what love looked like to them as an interracial couple.

“My parents married at a time when you didn’t marry outside of your race, but they did it because they saw the heart and not the skin,” she proudly proclaimed before closing her two-song set with a story song she wrote about them and their love, “Vaqueros and the Cowboy.”

 

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, a Country Music Hall of Famer, 60 year Grand Ole Opry member, and hit songwriter in the modern era of country as well as in the golden era that helped create the famed Nashville sound, took the stage to a tremendous ovation with his 1966 #1 smash “I Get the Fever,” followed closely by “Po’ Folks,” the latter which he shared was the very song that was on the charts in 1961 when he was invited to become a member of The Grand Ole Opry.

“Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mom’s out there in the crowd, and to those listening on WSM tonight,” exclaimed Anderson. “It’s always such a special weekend when we get to welcome the moms to Nashville. Now way back, I started writing down some thoughts about my own mom on a piece of paper and I never intended for it to become a song, but I got this last one I’m gonna play out of it,” he finished as he paid tribute to moms with his 1962 #1, “Mama Sang a Song.”

 

Celebrating the release of his brand-new live album Live From Oxford, MS, country music star Jameson Rodgers took the stage with his #1 hit “Cold Beer Calling My Name” and instantly had the crowd singing back the lyrics with him.

“Happy Saturday night y’all and Happy Mother’s Day weekend,” said Rodgers. “My mom’s not in the house tonight, but my grandma is…or should I say Memaw since that’s what I call her,” he mused before turning his attention directly to his Memaw, “Sorry that I didn’t get you a Mother’s Day gift but you did just get a shout-out from the Opry stage and that’s gotta count for something,” he finished with a smile as she cheered him on.

“She’s a big fan of Merle Haggard…so am I! And I’m also a big fan of writing songs about girls that break guys hearts, so I combined those two subjects on this next song I’m gonna play,” he finished as he played an acoustic version of the incredible “Merle Haggard,” a deep cut from his album Bet Your from a Small Town.

He rounded out his set by bringing Steve McGregor to the stage, the man who not only taught Jameson how to play guitar but also shared a stage with Rodgers’ granddad, to accompany him on piano during an audience gripping version of The Eagles “Desperado,” which included an Opry moment where the crowd lit up the entire venue with their cell phone flashlights to close segment 1. 

After a brief 15-minute intermission, the lights dimmed over the crowd yet again as the red curtain went up to begin segment 2.

Voice over actor, singer/songwriter, and popular DJ on SiriusXM’s Willie’s Roadhouse and Outlaw Country, Dallas Wayne opened the second segment.

Wayne was quick to showcase his personality when he said, “Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there tonight….and I do hope your kids are treating you right!” before diving into his 2-song set with “I Hit The Road (And The Road Hit Back),” a song lifted from his latest album Coldwater, TN that immediately had the crowd shoulder dancing along with the catchy, toe-tapping, honky-tonk infused rhythm.

“Being here on this stage and standing in this circle is one of the things I never take for granted,” stated Wayne gratefully…and everyone who steps into this circle feels the same way,” he said to an audience ovation as he created a second Opry moment when he welcomed back Bill Anderson to the stage; not only his friend, but also a co-writer of the next song that Wayne was about to play and the voice that provided the recitation on the song (both on the album and in person tonight).

“He Even Brought Her Flowers,” his current single, drips with traditional flavor that radiated through the atmosphere of the Opry House as Wayne’s voice perfectly secured the emotion of the lyric as it wavered through portions of the verses, all leading to the crescendo when Anderson came in toward the final moments of the song with his spoken word portion and added an entirely new dynamic to the raw feelings the song’s lyrics provided.

 

Keeping with the long-standing tradition of comedy being a part of the Grand Ole Opry, Reno Collier, who many recognize from his time on the road with The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, took the stage for a quick set of knee slapping comedy.

Focused on bits from his latest album Who Is Reno Collier?, he hilariously shared stories of being forced to get a real job doing construction over COVID when his scheduled dates all got cancelled, talked candidly about all the different characters that he met while on the jobsite, and spoke of how he was asked to come to Georgia to headline a church event right in a moment when he was praying for something to break; an event that he said he turned into a Toys 4 Tots charity event because that way if he said a bunch of bad words, kids still got toys!

The Opry Square Dancers took center stage and energetically took the spotlight for an encore performance that got the crowd clapping along and stomping their feet as each dancer showcased their different set off unique moves as they came through the lineup of arms raised above them by the other dancers in the group.

“Each month, The Grand Ole Opry spotlights a new artist who they think is on the rise and selects them to be part of Opry NextStage,” explained Mike Terry as he welcomed this month’s honoree Elvie Shane to a tremendous ovation, who then opened his three-song set with “Miles,” which would lead into a jam session at the end that allowed each member of his band the opportunity to shine.

“I came down here to Nashville six years ago and met ol’ boys at a place here called Loser’s” began Shane before joking, “That seemed like an appropriate name for a place that we’d hang out. There was even a place right next door to it called Winner’s, but we never graduated to that place. But one night we were all out on a back porch at a house in Hendersonville, TN and I saw a post on my Facebook from a friend who was talking about her kid. She said on the post, “I don’t have a step son, I just have a son who was born before there was me in the picture….and we got to work that night and came up with this,” he finished as he played his incredible #1 song “My Boy,” during which he lamented that he realized he left about half the people out when he initially wrote the song, so he changed lyrics at the end to sing about “My Girl” to give the song an all-encompassing flavor.

“Thank God that we get to do things like this on a Saturday night,” Elvie said while looking up and then out at the crowd. “I appreciate and love that the Grand Ole Opry has made me their NextStage artist of the month, but one of my biggest joys in the world is showcasing people I believe in and love,” he finished as he welcomed rising country star Tenille Townes to the stage for the third Opry moment of the night when they came together to perform “Nothin’ Lasts Forever.”

“We recently lost someone so important to country music,” Shane said as the final notes of the song were played. “I’ve had struggles over the years myself and if you have something going on in your life, please reach out to somebody for help,” Shane encouraged to an ovation before dedicating that night’s performance to Naomi Judd.


Opry member and ACM Award winner Mark Wills closed the night out with a quick, three song set that started with “Loving Every Minute,” and “Places I’ve Never Been,” before he paused to address the crowd.

“Thank you so much for coming out to the Grand Ole Opry tonight,” he gratefully said. “What do you say we close out the night with a song that spent some weeks at the top of the chart and was the most played song at country radio during that same year? Sing it with if you remember it,” Wills finished as the opening notes of “19 Something” rang out from the stage and instantly got people dancing and singing along one more time.

As the house lights come on to signal the program had officially ended, you come to the realization that your Grand Ole Opry experience is about so much more than just the music itself. It’s about family and you just got to be a part of it.

If you’re blessed with the opportunity to be inside those four walls, take time to breathe in the moment and savior every minute of it as you feel the spirit of the legends – Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Jack Greene, Little Jimmy Dickens, and all the cast of the Opry – sitting with you in those church pew seats, tapping a toe and hooting and hollering for the next chapter of country music as it unfolds right before your eyes (and ears) every Saturday night on country music’s grandest stage!

FULL SET LIST

1) Texas Plains (Riders in the Sky)

2) Old New Mexico (Riders in the Sky)

3) Medley: Woody’s Roundup, Jessie, the Yodelin’ Cowgirl, You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Riders in the Sky)

4) Happy Trails ((Riders in the Sky)

5) Once Upon a Time in Mexico (Leah Turner)

6) Vaqueros and the Cowboy (Leah Turner)

7) I Get the Fever (Bill Anderson)

8) Po’ Folks (Bill Anderson)

9) Mama Sang a Song (Bill Anderson)

10) Cold Beer Calling My Name (Jameson Rodgers)

11) Merle Haggard (Jameson Rodgers)

12) Desperado (Jameson Rodgers cover of The Eagles)

13) I Hit the Road (And the Road Hit Back) (Dallas Wayne)

14) He Even Brought Her Flowers (Dallas Wayne)

15) Reno Collier Comedy Set

16) Miles (Elvie Shane)

17) My Boy (Elvie Shane)

18) Nothin’ Lasts Forever (Elvie Shane)

19) Loving Every Minute (Mark Wills)

20) Places I’ve Never Been (Mark Wills)

21) 19 Something (Mark Wills)

 

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