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All for the Hall: thanks to Harris, Gill, no ordinary guitar pull

Club Nokia, Los Angeles, March 4, 2014

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

This all-star benefit concert for the Country Music Hall Of Fame may have been likened to a Nashville living room guitar pull, but this was certainly no ordinary guitar pull. The evening's acoustic show featured Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris Jason Mraz and Heart. It amounted to a wonderful evening of stories and songs.

Although actress Rita Wilson (who also sang one song) was the formal host for the evening, Gill acted as the performing host and opened the show with Buck Owens hit "Together Again," which was one of two selections from the performer's wonderful "Bakersfield" album.

Gill also sang Merle Haggard's "I Can't Be Myself," which he introduced by noting he'd tried hard to get The Hag to come and be a special guest at this show. Gill also offered "Whenever You Come Around," which was inspired by his wife Amy Grant's smile. He closed the night by singing "Bartender's Blues," a song dedicated to the memory of George Jones and Ray Price.

Harris sat stage left to Gill and contributed a couple of memorable selections. She sang "Tears in Heaven," which took a sad Eric Clapton hit and somehow made it even sadder. The biggest challenge of the night, however, was when Heart embarked upon singing Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl" along with Harris. Ann Wilson is the greatest living female rock singer, so it was nervous time when her parts came along during the song. Amazingly, she had the restraint to not blow the frail, beautiful Harris vocal out of the water.

It was fun to watch Heart in an acoustic setting; every time Ann Wilson went into one of those familiar vocal wails of hers, the crowd cheered wildly. No, she didn't sing "Barracuda" or "Crazy On You", but she (and her sister, Nancy) sang a lovely version of "Dog & Butterfly" and a moving song about the passing away of Ann's gardener, called "Sand."

The young and sexy Jason Mraz may have seemed like the odd man out on this bill of seasoned musical veterans, yet he fit right in by singing "Frank D. Fixer," which speaks of how he wishes he could be an emotional handyman, the same way his grandfather could fix almost anything (materially, of course). He also sang his biggest hit, "I'm Yours," which had the audience singing and swaying along joyfully.

Holly Williams, one of the night's special guests, nearly brought the house down with her "Waiting on June," which caused Gill to remark that this granddaughter of Hank Williams obviously has her iconic family's musical genes.

Gill has a reputation for playing nearly endless shows whenever he's doing one of his solo concerts. This one came in at around two hours, a reasonable length. But in this instance, one left the venue wishing it could have actually gone on all night. These performers have created so much great music; you just wanted to hear it all. Nevertheless, this benefit concert featured hall of fame-like performances - only fitting.

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