lthough this pairing of country star Crystal Gayle and Tony Orlando may have - on the surface - appeared to be an odd one, tonight's audience demonstratively loved each performer equally. It was an evening of memorable songs, fun and funny stories and just good old-fashioned entertainment.
Gayle opened the show with a strong set of country music, which included her takes on "Ribbon of Darkness," "Walkin' After Midnight" and "You Don't Know Me" drawn from her covers album, "You Don't Know Me: Classic Country." Her multi-faceted band included a fiddler and a multi-instrumentalist (mandolin/guitar/saxophone), which gave Gayle strong singing voice a wide variety of instrumental backings. With hits, like the sophisticatedly jazzy "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," such flexibility was an essential.
Gayle's sister, Peggy Sue Wright (the least known coal miner's daughter) accompanied Gayle throughout as a backing vocalist. She also told some of the evening's funniest stories, and even took the lead on "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)" which she co-wrote with Loretta Lynn. She sounded exactly like her more famous sister singing it (or was it the other way around?).
Gayle's set ended on a rousing note with a medley of country-gospel favorites, which included "I Saw the Light" and "I'll Fly Away." Gayle didn't have to prove her traditional country credentials, the way too many artists do these days. Instead, she let the music speak for itself. And this music made her case, loud and clear.
Orlando's closing set framed the singer as a kind of human jukebox. Yes, he sang his signature song, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," but he also found room a Beatles medley, which he transformed into a concert hall sing-along. Furthermore, Orlando gave his band plenty of opportunities to show off their stuff. None of these moments topped his guitarist singing an emotional "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)," the worship song. Toni Wine, a keyboardist and vocalist in Orlando's touring band, sang lead on her hit for The Mindbenders and Phil Collins, "A Groovy Kind Love." Orlando neglected to mention how Wine was also a member of the bubblegum band The Archies. There was, alas, no "Sugar Sugar" this night.
Orlando, who recalled loving doo-wop music growing ups, still sings with a distinctly warm voice. He sounded especially good on his Tony Orlando and Dawn hit "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)," which he performed early on. Orlando may now be some distance from his hit-making years, but he still clearly enjoys singing and entertaining. For those that love music (and especially appreciate singing out loud at concerts), it's impossible to imagine them not loving Orlando's set. Sometimes, seemingly strange bedfellows can surprisingly make for memorable concert experiences.