Trisha Yearwood Brings It All Back Home

Country diva commands crowd at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

NASHVILLE — Country artists seldom play in

Nashville, partly because all their peers will be there

scrutinizing them. But

COLOR="#003163">Trisha Yearwood made

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,

Johnny

Garcia, Yearwood was clearly enjoying

herself.

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), from her current

release Real Live Woman, Yearwood started at full-

throttle and never looked back.

Kim Richey

set the evening's intimate tone with her 10-song opening

set. Marking the beginning of her stint on Yearwood's

outing (teen phenom

COLOR="#003163">Jessica Andrews

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

Ronstadt/

COLOR="#003163">Andrew Gold tear-jerker

"Try Me Again." Settling into the song's first chorus,

Yearwood was surprised by the unscripted entrance of

backup singers Vicki

Hampton,

COLOR="#003163">Kim Fleming and

Robert

Bailey, a gospel/R&B trio heard on Real

Live Woman and currently backing the

COLOR="#003163">Judds on 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.