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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Gill rests high in concert

Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show, March 5, 1998

By Brian Wahlert

HOUSTON - Vince Gill has been pretty quiet in recent months. He hasn't been touring, and his name has been notably missing from the charts. He explained this absence to the crowd at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show by saying, "I haven't been doing anything. Been goofing off. It's been too cold to play golf."

Nevertheless, in his Thursday night Rodeo appearance he was in fine form. He seemed to have trouble hitting the high notes early on - he was overpowered by his backup singers on "High Lonesome Sound," for instance - but after a few songs, he found his voice and was singing as beautifully as ever.

He hit his stride on the concert's fourth song, the beautiful ballad of everlasting love, "Look at Us," dedicated to George and Barbara Bush, Houston residents who were in attendance.

Later, Gill confessed he actually has been working a bit in the past few months. He's been writing a lot and recording a new album, and on this night, he shared one of the new songs with the Rodeo audience. "The Key to Life" is a song about Gill's father, who died last summer. Gill's reading of the touching lyric about his boyhood admiration for his father brought a huge response from the crowd.

The show's highlight, however, was "Go Rest High on That Mountain," a song about the deaths of Keith Whitley and Gill's brother. Throughout the show, guitarist Jeff White and drummer Billy Thomas, who used to be in McBride & the Ride, had provided great harmonies, but on this song everything was perfect. After sound problems earlier in the show, the volumes of the voices were set just right, and the interplay between the three parts sounded wonderful.

Of course, Gill is known not only for his singing and songwriting but also for his guitar playing. On this night, the audience got to hear plenty of it. It seemed that every song featured a Gill guitar solo near the end. On the closer, "Liza Jane," however, the solos seemed to drag on forever. As good a guitar player as he is, in the future Gill should take out a few of the guitar solos and replace them with an extra song or two.

The low point came when Gill performed his recent Grammy-winning song "Pretty Little Adriana." Although the song is the perfect vehicle for Gill's beautiful, high voice, it is perhaps the most inane song ever to go from Gill's pen to the country charts. If the best country performance by a male artist in the past year was a song with the lyrics, "Oh, my pretty little Adriana. Are you lonesome tonight? Oh, my pretty little Adriana. I'll find you when it all feels right," then it's no wonder country music is losing in popularity.

Overall, however, it was another good performance from Gill. It also gave the audience high hopes for his upcoming album - hopefully, the rest of the material will measure up to "The Key to Life."