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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Vince Gill remains the big thing

North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, Mass., Aug. 10, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BEVERLY, MA - In the title track of his latest, very fine release, "Next Big Thing," Vince Gill sings that once you've made it, everyone else is waiting for the "next big thing" to come down the pike.

That, in fact, could be the predicament Gill finds himself in.

But Gill, 46, is doing his darndest to find that possibility. Not only did he release a 17-song album of meaty music that hews close to the country line, but Gill continues to show time and again why he is one of country's finest live performers.

For starters, Gill has a very extensive song catalogue to choose from. Once his career got going as a solo artist after leaving Pure Prairie League, Gill never looked back. And he got going on the right foot before a just about sold-out crowd with "One More Last Chance." Familiar, catchy and just out and out fine songs from new to old, like the charged up "Oklahoma Borderline."

Unfortunately, Gill never got to some of his hits either such as "Never Knew Lonely," "No Future in the Past" and a host more.

Perhaps Gill was experiencing some vocal difficulties. He never mentioned it and never sounded off at all, but he coughed a number of times in between songs. Gill sang quite well throughout with his sonorous voice making the songs come alive.

And the Oklahoman proved once again that his ability to light up a stage through the spoken word is not limited to being host of an awards show. Gill can be funny and serious and tells a slew of good yarns and often self-deprecating humor.

Gill needs no script to connect with the audience. He told a bunch of stories about his late father who first taught him how to play guitar and seemed perfectly comfortable going on for a good five minutes at least with tales before playing a song about the man.

It also helps Gill that his backing band once again remains strong. Billy Thomas on drums is a mainstay, providing an energetic backbeat without overwhelming the music.

Pedal steel player J. D. Manness is one of the beset in the business. Guitarist Tom Britt took a bunch of leads, which Gill seemed to easily hand over to his band member. Jeff White on acoustic also was quite effective.

One of the beauties of a Gill show is that he has continually been unafraid to let his band take over and share the spotlight.

But Gill also was not afraid to let loose on guitar, especially on a bluesy "Nothing Like a Woman" where he let it rip for awhile, eyes closed, clearly getting into the moment.

Gill needn't worry about who the next big thing will be or is in country music. He has secured his place time and again as one of the finest.