Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ince Gill walked out on stage and told/asked the crowd, "Let's have a good time tonight. You want to?" The charge was not particularly hard to achieve because some things never change about Gill.
The Oklahoman's voice is a pretty instrument especially when the tenor really kicks in on those high lonesome ballads. His guitar playing remains stellar - no wonder Eric Clapton wants him for his guitar festival. And Gill is one funny guy.
About the only thing that has changed with age - Gill is now 54 - is that his start isn't quite as bright as it once was commercially, but that doesn't belie the fact that Gill remains a tour de force in concert as evidenced by this 2 ½-hour show.
Gill, decked out as "elegantly as ever" with plain jeans, a t-shirt and glasses, played mostly a greatest hits show, although fortunately the songs did not come off as being old and in the way of new material. Far from it.
Gill and band started with One More Last Time, combining the best of songwriting talents and wordplay with lively musical chops and melody. That is something that would endure for the entire show - lots of excellent, familiar material that were not exactly replicas of the recorded version.
That was because Gill and his excellent backing band often went beyond the song structure to stretch out the songs, not rushing the material so they could get to the next hit.
Gill also let the songs breath by extending them, which often meant that his band members had the chance to show their musical chops. Aside from Gill on lead guitar, the most prominent player was the excellent pedal steel magician Paul Franklin. He's a veteran of a zillion Nashville sessions and added the fills or took the lead, energizing the songs.
Gill mainstay Billy Thomas adeptly handled the drumming chores with other regulars including Pete Wasner on keyboards, Dawn Sears on backing vocals, Tom Britt on electric, and Jeff White on acoustic guitar along with Nashville session cat David Hungate on bass.
Gill and band mixed it up between ballads and honky tonk two steppers to slightly bluesy tracks.
Unfortunately, he devoted very little time to his last CD, the excellent, monstrous "These Days," a four-CD set with each CD featuring a different kind of music. The lone song from the set was Some Things Never Get Old.
What the Cowgirls D received the biggest changeover. Instead of a bouncy country number, Gill totally transformed it into a funkified, New Orleans style version, which worked.
Gill offered a few songs from his appropriately titled, upcoming late October release, "Guitar Slinger." He included the new single, somewhat of a downer of a song, Threaten Me With Heaven. The song concerns a guy who receives some real bad news about a disease, but he turns it into a positive. Written with wife Amy Grant, Dillon O'Brian and the late Will Owsley, the song took on an extra sad dimension because Owsley later committed suicide. While most of those in attendance may never have heard the song before, Gill received much applause.
As usual Gill often interspersed the songs with humorous stories or comments. He is a real joker with a strong sense of humor, feeding off and responding to the crowd. A good chunk of his comments focused on his late father, a lawyer and redneck, although Gill confessed to having seen far far more of the redneck side of the gruff, chain smoking man.
Gill was not afraid to poke fun at himself, thanking one audience member for noticing he had lost weight. He indicated he felt obliged to because he was soon appearing in a CMT Crossroads show with Sting, who's rail thin.
And he also enjoyed talking about his wife, a Christian singer, who he wove into stories such as not liking of one songs, It's Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long, written with Rodney Crowell, to how he was barely going to see her until Thanksgiving due to mutual tours and counted the days. When an audience member questioned that, Gill confessed he really did, showing his personal side in a humorous way.
Gill stood out most on the ballads with such songs as Trying to Get Over You<,/I> Look at Us, I Still Believe in You and the closing song of the night Go Rest High on That Mountain, originally a tribute to his late brother Bob.
But on this evening, Gill paid homage to those who died on 9/11, saying that while all the attention was in New York and Pennsylvania, Boston was where it all started. With the crowd singing the words without help from Gill, it was an emotional high point from a night that most definitely provided a good time.