Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ince Gill sure has been exceedingly busy lately. After all, he just released "These Days," a 4-CD, 43-song set on Tuesday, which is far more than most people can digest. And that's a lot to ask of fans, especially given that very few probably heard songs from the release prior to the show.
But thanks to a well put together set and Gill's typically affable stage presence, neither proved all that difficult to overcome.
Gill came out before the sold-out crowd to reach back into his catalogue with hits "One More Last Chance," "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away" and "When I Call Your Name." Good move because it set up for what would follow, though there were kinks in the sound.
Gill's vocals were sometimes either mixed too low or else lost in the acoustics, making it secondary to the music. Too bad because the guy sure can sing. Eventually, the problem was righted for the most part.
What would come were large chunks of each of the four CDs with Gill and his extremely large band of 16 backing musicians.
Gill told the crowd that the heavy duty writing for the new disc was "probably the most creative period in my entire life."
He started with selections from "Some Things Never Get Old (The Country & Western Record)" - each CD has a theme and name. The Okie certainly was comfortable in this segment, starting with "Take This Country Back," not a political diatribe. On the disc, Gill sings with John Anderson, typical of the recordings where a slew of musical heavyweights participated.
Typical of Gill's dealing with largely unknown songs, he told the crowd a bit about how he always liked Anderson. Giving the background on various participants, including Phil Everly, for example, on "Sweet Little Corrina," proved to be enlightening, not distracting.
Gill then slid into "The Groovy Record," which wasn't exactly night time music. The songs tended to be more middle of the road with the highlight being "The Rock of Your Love" with some excellent pedal steel and backing vocals.
As usual, Gill had a stellar backing band. Back-up singer Dawn Sears was a key component, often pitching in with harmonies. Gill also employed a lot of guitarists, including veteran Al Anderson. A horn section often punched up the songs, giving a funky feel.
An intermission led to Gill being solo acoustic, another nice touch, for a few songs before settling into a bluegrass segment. That was no stretch for Gill because decades ago, he played with the likes of Byron Berline. Gill trotted out the mandolin on many songs during the extremely generous three-hour plus concert.
A closing rock section, often with a bit of a funky or swampy feel, was adequate, but the real strength of Gill likes in his trademark country and bluegrass songs.
Gill, a key figure in country for many years, may have seen brighter days commercially, but that doesn't mean a thing when it comes to putting out quality music performances.
Putting out four CDs at once isn't typical and to integrate it into a concert of new and world so well speaks volumes about Gill's abilities.