NASHVILLE Country artists seldom play in
Nashville, partly because all their peers will be there
scrutinizing them. But
the hometown dynamic work for her at the Ryman
Auditorium on Wednesday.
"Nashville always makes me nervous I know half of
you!" Yearwood told the audience. But any jitters she may
have had must have energized her. Cracking jokes,
chatting with the crowd, even poking fun at her guitarist,
Garcia, Yearwood was clearly enjoying
The feeling proved to be mutual, with those in the audience
returning her banter like a group of old friends hanging out in
her living room.
The best concert experiences are those that forge a bond
between artist and audience, a mutual give-and-take of
friendship and bonhomie. Such performances are rare
indeed, but by the time the capacity crowd at the Ryman
rose to its feet for the fifth time, one thing was clear: This
was no ordinary concert.
Confident, calm and in control, Yearwood commanded the
audience from the moment she set foot onstage. Ushered
in to the rocking strains of "Where Are You Now?" (
href="http://media.addict.com/music/Yearwood,_Trisha/Where_Are_You_No w.ram">RealAudio excerpt
w.ram">RealAudio excerpt), from her current
release Real Live Woman, Yearwood started at full-
throttle and never looked back.
set the evening's intimate tone with her 10-song opening
set. Marking the beginning of her stint on Yearwood's
outing (teen phenom
opened the tour's previous dates), Richey played
confessional compositions with a pared-down, acoustic
folk-rock delivery the perfect complement to
Yearwood's more polished style.
Richey, of course, has written many of Yearwood's biggest
hits, but her set also captured the essence of what
Yearwood's own "Real Live Woman" is about: pure
emotion and musical honesty, without the Madison
Avenue-style flash and pop that so many artists hide
behind these days. Richey and Yearwood have made
successful careers by choosing integrity over safety,
Yearwood as a recording artist and Richey as a songwriter.
It's paid off handsomely for both, and when these two
friends pool their talents, stand back.
At no time was that magic more obvious than when Richey
joined Yearwood for "Those Words We Said" and "Believe
Me Baby, I Lied." Seeming more Lilith Fair than Fan Fair, the
women joked with each other and the crowd, even making a
few playful pokes at the guys in the audience. The
estrogen ran high during this part of the show, with
Yearwood quipping that she's "trying to embrace this real-
live woman thing while tugging, pulling and sucking in" her
outfit. Both sexes ate it up, drawn by the down-to-earth
humor and charisma these women exude.
It was one of those special moments that great concerts
have, but, unbelievably, there were more in store for the
evening. Following Richey's exit, Yearwood launched into
the gorgeous Linda
"Try Me Again." Settling into the song's first chorus,
Yearwood was surprised by the unscripted entrance of
backup singers Vicki
Bailey, a gospel/R&B trio heard on Real
Live Woman and currently backing the
COLOR="#003163">Juddson tour. Stunned
but never missing a note Yearwood kept
her hand over her heart as she finished the emotion-
packed song, then pressed the singers to stay for two
more numbers: "Midnight Train to Georgia" and the powerful
gospel number "You Don't Have to Move That Mountain."
When the trio left the stage, headed for the next Judds gig,
the thunderous ovation sounded like it could literally take
down the house.
The energy and enthusiasm never flagged, not when
Richey left the stage or when Hampton, Fleming and Bailey
departed. Instead, the momentum kept building, with the
audience fully engaged every step of the way. By the final
encore, Yearwood's elegant rendition of "Somewhere Over
the Rainbow," many in the crowd most likely felt that's
exactly where they'd been taken.