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Alabama does it right

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, July 2, 2021

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Bonnie Raitt introduced her one of her shows by saying, "Tonight there's not going to be any pyro or dancing, just a lot of real good music." Alabama's 50th anniversary tour is cut from the same cloth. The 24-song set featured a band so tight you might have thought they had been playing together for a century.

This was the first full capacity show in Bridgestone Arena in 482 days, so there was already a special aura in the air just listening to the concert fill.

The band walked out to a patriotic tribute video featuring officers in full dress uniforms, shots of Arlington cemetery and lots of flags. It prompted the crowd to chant "U.S.A." for a few minutes. When the band hit the power chord to the scorching opener, "Pass It On Down" the amps and the twang ratcheted up to 11, and the tone was set that country music was back and in a big way.

The crowd got even more revved up early on with a lightning-fast version of "If You're Gonna Play In Texas ("You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band)." Alabama then slowed it down with "The Closer I Get," the first of a string of standout ballads they rattled off in succession, from the smooth sweetness of "Love In The First Degree" to bringing out guest vocalist Jake Owen for the tender "Lady Down On Love."

To say Alabama has a lot of material is an understatement. They had 21 straight number one singles. They played 16 of them, including deep cuts like "Dancin' Shaggin' On The Boulevard" and "Sad Lookin' Moon."

Randy Owens and Teddy Gentry have an almost telepathic sense as band leaders Their precision is equalled only by their stage charisma. Sure, the show was in a 16,000-seat arena, but it felt more intimate. Owens and Gentry said it felt like coming home.

Martina McBride made the most of her rather short opening slot. Her 45-minute, 10-song set featured most of her greatest hits and of course showcased the big anthems. "Anyway," "Independence Day and "A Broken Wing" Take your pick of your favorite. They were all equally excellent and sounded even bigger in the large arena. Considering that many new country fans were not even born when Alabama's debut album dropped in 1976, this could be considered a nostalgia or even a classic country tour. Whatever you call it, it was country music done right.

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