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Add great Gill concerts to life's certainties

Harborlights, Boston, Aug. 26, 1998

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - Vince Gill may be country music's Mr. Nice Guy, but he sure plays one mean guitar. That was evident yet again during a two-hour show.

And in addition to his fret work - succinct, tuneful and never overdone - add great singing scoring high on the emotion meter.

Gill, touring off his excellent new "The Key," played songs from throughout his career.

And he was not merely a hit machine reciting hit after hit just like you heard them the first time around.

As Gill is wont to do, he often lets his band play out and stretches the songs. It is at these moments that his guitar playing takes off into the stratosphere. He moulds a song, sparking it with much musical muscle.

As usual, he has a top notch band, particularly pedal steel veteran John Hughey and back-up singer and mandolinist Sonya Isaacs, who Gill will produce later this year for her own album.

Gill showed he could play it fast or slow. He generally offered fine pacing throughout, delving into a style before changing gears at just about the right moment.

That was never more evident than during the encore when he shifted musically throughout, starting with a bluesy song before launching into "You Better Think Twice," the mournful ballad "Go Rest High On That Mountain," the playful "What the Cowgirls Do (which seemed like it would end the evening, but Gill said, "I ain't quitting") "I Still Believe in You" and finally ending with "Liza Jane."

The back-and-forth quality of the encore worked just fine.

Gill earlier included three songs from "The Key," included the song that summarizes the disc, "Kindly Keep It Country." His current hit "If You Ever Have Forever In Mind" sparkled as well. And the emotion of the night was indicated by "The Key to Life," an ode to his father who died last year.

Given the ultra high quality of the disc, it would have been nice to hear even more of it.

Complaints included one every musician should be saddled with - you wished Gill played even longer, not that two hours was cheap.

He played a few songs that just didn't measure up quality-wise to the others, ("Pretty Little Adriana"and "You and You Alone").

But the latter is a small complaint in considering the overall effect. Add great Gill concerts - guitar, voice, songs and band - to the list of life's certainties.

Chely Wright opened the show with a good 45-minute set. She stood out far more when she sang straight country songs, including good-sized snatches of Connie Smith, a big hero of hers, and Marty Robbins rather than the somewhat generic country pop songs.

Wright sometimes was a bit too laid back, but overall was pleasurable.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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