Alabama played Nashville one last time on Friday (June 27), saying farewell after 25 years on the road. And for a city notorious for stodgy audiences — especially at country shows — the band managed to bring the excitable crowd to its feet more often than any local concert in recent memory.
Maybe it’s simply impossible not to get up and dance during “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas,” “Roll On” or “Dixieland Delight.” Maybe it’s that the working class people were just ready to hear something about their own lives, such as “Forty Hour Week” or “Born Country” or “Song of the South.” Or maybe it’s the fact that Alabama built their career on extremely catchy but substantial songs.
Yeah, that’s probably it. Aside from a few curiosities, the set list was quite strong: “Love in the First Degree,” “The Closer You Get,” “Lady Down on Love,” “Feels So Right” — and that’s only the first hour! Whoever says nothing worthwhile came out of country in the early 1980s clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Lead singer Randy Owen certainly had a spring in his step throughout the three-hour concert, and the show lagged only when fiddler-guitarist Jeff Cook or bassist Teddy Gentry took over lead vocals. (That’s not to diminish their instrumental roles in the band, though. Musically speaking, everybody sounded solid.) Meanwhile, drummer Mark Herndon set the pace on drums, which is rather important when trying to sum up 25 years of music.
Alabama raced through the first few songs, including the ballads, until Owen stopped to talk about writing the song “Face to Face.” The break allowed the crowd to temporarily relax, despite the occasional pandering — such as “How many people out there love country music!” or “How many people came to have a party?” or “I think this side is louder! Or is it this side?” But so it goes with country music, and the thousands of fans got a welcome dose of it.
Still, there were a couple of head-scratchers. Like, why did they decorate the stage to look like the Jungle Room in Graceland? What compelled Owen to boogie through almost every song? When the sun’s been down for a couple of hours, how can Herndon see his drums while wearing sunglasses? And what’s up with Cook’s neon green fiddle? (I’d like to see him play that in Texas.)
With only 180 shopping days left, the band also offered “Christmas in Dixie,” as well as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “America the Beautiful.” But it was “Old Flame,” with lighters flickering, that brought down the house.
Farewell tours must be tough because you want people to go home happy, even when you know you’ll never see them again. That must be especially true when those people have helped you sustain the biggest career of any band in country music. Their home may be in Alabama, as the song goes, but their music will continue to live in a much larger place.
“When It All Goes South”
“Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”
“Love in the First Degree”
“The Closer You Get”
“She Ain’t Your Ordinary Girl”
“If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle …)”
“Face to Face”
“Lady Down on Love”
“Feels So Right”
“Too Country for Rock and Roll”
“Jukebox in My Mind”
“Christmas in Dixie”
“Give Me One More Shot”
“Katie Brought My Guitar Back Today”
“Angels Among Us”
“Song of the South”
“Pass It On Down”
“I’m In a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)”
“Here We Are”
“If I Could Just See You Now”
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”
“I Woke Up Monday Morning”
“Forty Hour Week”
“Where the Red River Flows”
“America the Beautiful”
“Dancin’, Shaggin’ on the Boulevard”
“My Home’s in Alabama”