Any soul in the heavens that looked down on Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Thursday night (Aug. 31) witnessed one helluva party down south with The Cadillac Three.
While severe weather and tornado warning sirens raged downtown, family, friends and hardcore fans packed the Ryman pews to watch natives Kelby Ray Caldwell, Jaren Johnston and Neil Mason make their headlining debut at the historic venue.
The three musicians have been performing together since high school. Johnston and Caldwell went to Hume-Fogg, a block away from the Ryman, while Mason attended Hillsboro High in the nearby Green Hills neighborhood.
After an electric 40-minute opening set by Texas’ Ray Wylie Hubbard, the Cadillac Three lit up the stage like a holy trinity of Southern rock. Caldwell and Mason were stationed on risers that sandwiched a set of stairs and two Marshall amps that blasted their brand of country fuzz throughout the hall. Johnston moved seamlessly between singing on a microphone stationed up front, playing a fiery lead guitar all over the stage and pointing at old friends he recognized in the audience.
The band had no set list that night, which was part of the band’s Black Roses Tour. Throughout the 90-minute show, Johnston lead the band through live selections from their latest album Legacy, 2016’s Bury Me in My Boots and songs from their back catalogue.
At times, the audience sang louder than the band rocking out onstage.
“I’m trying not to talk because, buddy, this is tough, man,” Johnston exclaimed. “Thank y’all so much for coming out tonight. I’m not crying until we get to some point in the set where it’s time to cry, but we’re all going to cry together … and this is the happiest three long hairs have ever been, I’ll tell ya right now.”
The song list included “Tennessee Mojo,” “I’m Southern,” “American Slang,” “Soundtrack to a Six Pack,” “Graffiti,” “Dang If We Didn’t,” “White Lightning,” “Cadillacin’,” “Take Me to the Bottom” and “Runnin’ Red Lights” with rising artist Hannah Dasher.
The night ended with the band giving each other a big group hug. The Cadillac Three will return to Europe this fall to headline its Long Hair Don’t Care Tour with Brothers Osborne and Broken Witt Rebels opening.