Vince Gill is ready to play again. And he stayed up well past midnight to prove it.
Gill embarked on his club tour Tuesday night (Jan. 14) at Nashville’s esteemed Exit/In. It was the first of five consecutive shows he’s scheduled to perform there, before taking his intimate show on the road to similarly small venues in major cities.
“Some of the guys requested we play only until the hot light goes on at Krispy Kreme,” Gill joked. The tantalizing doughnut shop is just across the street from the club. However, if Gill has been cracking open the pastry box, nobody could tell. He’s lost 30 pounds, he said, but he’s keeping the “fat-boy clothes” just in case. Gill seemed remarkably fit and relaxed from the stage, wearing a stylish tan shirt, blue jeans, boots and a small pair of spectacles to read the lyrics to his new material.
He kicked off the show with two hits — “One More Last Chance” and “Take Your Memory With You” — and chatted extensively with the crowd. Explaining that he first graced the stage of the Exit/In as Ricky Skaggs ’ steel guitar player in 1976, Gill added, “It’s more fun to play in a club than anywhere in the world.”
That comment can certainly be believed, as Gill rolled out all 17 songs on his forthcoming album, Next Big Thing, before returning for a 14-song encore.
With nine assured musicians backing him, Gill launched into his new material with “The Sun’s Gonna Shine on You,” followed by “She Never Makes Me Cry” (a lyric stolen from the movie Oceans Eleven, he admitted) and “Old Time Fiddle.”
Acknowledging his superior band, Gill cracked, “Some people buy choreographers when they get famous. I get people.”
Gill appears to have kept the fires of country music flickering on his new album, from the Nashville ode “Young Man’s Town” to the Merle Haggard tribute, “Real Mean Bottle.” After hearing nine unfamiliar songs in a row, the crowd erupted at the first few bars of “Next Big Thing,” his newest single.
From there on, he still had 21 tunes to play.
The next seven songs may have reminded listeners of past hits, such as the ballad “These Broken Hearts,” the temptation song “From Where I Stand” and the autobiographical “This Old Guitar and Me.” The latter was inspired by a book written by Chet Atkins , and another song, the rowdy “Ain’t No Foolin’ Nobody,” was dedicated to the memory of Waylon Jennings .
Gill’s wife, Amy Grant, harmonized on “In These Last Few Days” before the whole band took a 25-minute intermission.
Nearly everyone in the sold-out, well-behaved crowd stuck around for the promised hits, and they got ’em: “Oklahoma Borderline,” “Pretty Little Adriana,” “If You Ever Have Forever in Mind,” “Whenever You Come Around” (which Gill confessed writing about Grant), “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slipping Away” and so on. Many times, Gill extended the songs with long guitar solos, subtly reminding the audience that’s he’s that elusive triple-threat — writer, singer and player — rarely encountered these days in any genre of music.
Of course, more hits followed: “What the Cowgirls Do,” “When I Call Your Name,” “Go Rest High on That Mountain” and “Liza Jane.” He commented earlier in the show that he was battling allergy problems that have attacked virtually everyone in middle Tennessee, but that didn’t keep him from splendidly hitting the high notes in the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why.”
Shortly before 1 a.m., Gill remarked that he was getting sleepy and he bid farewell after his 33rd song, “South Side of Dixie.” It’s hard to say if he’ll be able to sustain such momentum throughout the rest of the tour, but opening night proved that the “Next Big Thing” — whoever it is this week — has nothing on Gill.
“One More Last Chance”
“Take Your Memory With You”
“The Sun’s Gonna Shine on You”
“She Never Makes Me Cry”
“Old Time Fiddle”
“Young Man’s Town”
“Real Mean Bottle”
“Don’t Let Her Get Away”
“Next Big Thing”
“These Broken Hearts”
“We Had It All”
“From Where I Stand”
“Ain’t No Foolin’ Nobody”
“This Old Guitar and Me”
“In These Last Few Days”
“Pretty Little Adriana”
“If You Ever Have Forever in Mind”
“Whenever You Come Around”
“Don’t Let Our Love Start Slipping Away”
“Nothing Like a Woman”
“What the Cowgirls Do”
“When I Call Your Name”
“Go Rest High on That Mountain”
“House of Love” (with Amy Grant)
“Just One Dance With You”
“I Can’t Tell You Why”
“South Side of Dixie”