Concert Review: The Oaks Still Shining

The Oak Ridge Boys

Sept 8, 2018

The Harv at Mountaineer Race Track and Casino

New Cumberland, West Virginia

 

There are few musical acts that can still perform and sound great after a certain age. Those that fall into this category are Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, and Barry Manilow.

Then there are The Oak Ridge Boys.

To say that these four singers can still go while in their 70s is an understatement, because even with a degree in English, I can not fully put into words how great of a show these legends put on. They combine classic country, gospel, pop, and mix it into a show filled with humor, pride, and excitement.

On this rainy day in West Virginia (it rained constant all day, and the forecast called for more rain next few days due to effects of a tropical storm on the way), singer Joe Bonsall mentioned that this year’s tour has been filled with so much rain that they are known as “The Soak Ridge Boys,” and was thankful that this show was indoors.

The show started with 1984’s “Everyday,” 1983’s “American Made,” and 1977’s “You’re The One.” The band fired off song after song , keeping the audience singing along, and with as many hits as the act has, the band doesn’t want to disappoint in not trying to get as many songs in as possible.

One of the rare aspects of seeing the Oaks in concert is that they embrace the whole history of the band, from their gospel roots, to the time when other members were in the band (they still play songs from the Steve Sanders years, when William Lee Golden left the band for a while). Unlike some other musical acts, who ignore their past, especially when it comes to member changes, The Oaks showed that they are not erasing their history by performing songs like “It’s Gonna Take A Lot Of River,” which Joe Bonsall took the lead parts that was originally done by Sanders, and the last time I saw them live two years ago when Duane Allen took on “No Matter How High I Get” (again from the Sanders years).

Photo by Casey Carman

The set list featured some of the classic songs older fans of the band know, such as the Rodney Crowell cover “Leaving Louisiana in The Broad Daylight,” “Y’all Come Back Saloon,” “(I’m Sittin) Fancy Free,” and “Thank God For Kids,” which ended with William Lee Golden stating not to forget “grandkids too.” Bonsall, when introducing the band, stated that drummer Austin Curcuruto “wasn’t even born yet” when these songs were hits, being the young guy on the tour. Nonetheless he, and the rest of the Mighty Oaks band, were given a nice response for their hard work.

Since the Oaks never do the same set list twice, rare gems were featured as well, including one of my favorites, “Dancing The Night Away.” I used my contact with the band on Twitter to suggest the song, since I’d never seen them do it live. Bonsall made a comment to the crowd to send their pictures of the show to their Twitter page, and the band embraces social media because “they are cool. ” Humor aside, Bonsall was like a twenty year old on this song, dancing and covering the whole stage, while the musicians brought an energy and fierceness to the song that was as rocking as any hard rock act I have seen.

“Come On In (You Did The Best You Could Do),” another rarer song that casual fans may not have known, continued the hard rocking segment, with Duane Allen showing his energy singing lead on the song. There was a guy sitting next to my girlfriend (wearing a Def Leppard shirt) who devil-horned his way during these two songs, which shows that hard rockers found something to be entertained with the show.

After the fabulous bass man Richard Sterban sang his rendition of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” (Sterban shines on this song), the set turned to a gospel revival, with songs from their latest album “17th Avenue Revival.” The song “Pray To Jesus,” a humorous song from the album (and one of my favorites) has a different feel to it live, with a more rocking side to it, and was interesting to hear how the band interpreted it in concert. The lead single “Brand New Star” continued the session, with Bonsall stating that it was a positive take on dealing with death, which got a great response from the crowd. Allen continued the new music with “There Will Be Light.” Anytime I can sit and listen to Allen’s soulful vocals, it’s a treat. The Oaks performed five songs off of the new album, and did not lose their audience; one of the few bands that can pull off that many songs of new music without the audience heading to the concession stands.

Photo by Casey Carman

The beginning of “Let It Shine On Me,” the song the tour gets its name from, was Allen and the piano player taking the revival to it’s climax, with “The Ace” Allen taking me back to my early days of playing in black churches with his vocal range singing “Let It Shine On Me” soulfully and with the feeling that made it seem like the only person he was paying attention to was Jesus himself, singing with all his heart. When the other singers joined in, much like the whole night, the harmonies of these icons proved their worth to any critic that may had any doubt left that the gang could still hit the notes after a 90 minute show. The urban gospel feel at the end of the song, was similar to the scene with James Brown in the movie The Blues Brothers , where not only Bonsall was leading the praise fest with his ad-libs, but the band was backing the power like a locomotive glory train. The only thing missing was people doing cartwheels in the aisles like John Belushi did in the movie, but the same energy was there.

One can not end an Oaks show without “Elvira” and Bobbie Sue,” the two hits that made the pop charts in 1981 and 1982. The crowd was on their feet the whole time these two songs were played, singing and dancing along with the band. A highlight of the song is the crowd trying to compete with Sterban’s famous bass line, which the crowd has a fun time attempting. When Bonsall asked the crowd at the beginning of the night who were first time attendees, the majority of the crowd raised their hands. After the two biggest hits, many of the people were still singing on the way to the parking lot and to the casino, leaving happy while venturing back out into the rain.

Photo by Lance Lumley

One thing that I’d like to state here (I pride on this page being honest reviews) is how professional the crew was at the event. Two years ago, I had a problem with the T-shirt I got when I got it home (it shrunk to the point it was un-wearable when I was told it wouldn’t- my review of that show can be found in the archives). With no disrespect to that situation, the people at the merchandise table this time were friendly, telling jokes, and were overall wonderful and pleasant. Not only were the people at the table nice to deal with, but right before the show, they announced that those of us in the bleachers were allowed to come and sit in any empty seats on the floor to fill in the areas. Not many acts would let the fans do that, so we started in the bleachers before the show, and ended up towards the middle section of the floor. These people, from the tour bus drivers, sound technicians, lighting directors, and those working the merchandise table are some of the unsung heroes that many do not see or think of (for non musicians or those that have never played in bands), but the courtesy of the band allowing people to move up was not only great kindness, but a lasting memory for some of us. The underrated on stage band is just as enjoyable to watch as the guys in front singing. From a business aspect, The Oaks are as wonderful and professional at the same time.

To compliment The Oak Ridge Boys on putting a top-notch concert, while mentioning their age, is a double edge sword for fans like me. In one way, I like to show that these guys still put on one of the best shows in ANY genre of music, while combining country, pop, gospel, and American pride all in one show. However, the fans that have followed the band throughout the years already know what this act can do on stage (I have only seen the band live 3 times, so I missed the major 1970s-1980s live act).

The 90 minute (or so) set was pure entertainment and pleasure, with no slow spots, which can be rare in today’s musical events. This concert showed why Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, and William Lee Golden are one of America’s finest treasures in the music industry.

 

Set List:

  1. Everyday
  2. American Made
  3. You’re The One
  4. Come On In
  5. Louisiana Red Dirt Highway
  6. This Crazy Love
  7. Gonna Take A Lot Of River
  8. Y’all Come Back Saloon
  9. Leaving Louisiana in The Broad Daylight
  10. Roll Tennessee River
  11. (I’m Sittin) Fancy Free
  12. Thank God For Kids
  13. Dancing The Night Away
  14. Come On In (You Did The Best You Could)
  15. Boom Boom
  16. Pray To Jesus
  17. Brand New Star
  18. There Will Be Light
  19. I’d Rather Have Jesus
  20. Let It Shine On Me
  21. Elvria
  22. Bobbie Sue

To see where the Oak Ridge Boys are touring next, visit http://www.oakridgeboys.com

 

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The Band You Need To Hear: AttaBoy

 

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AttaBoy Concert Review(October 12, 2016 Leetonia High School)

Remember the days when musicians had to load up in a van, drive many miles, set up their own stage and lights, and then play their concert, instead of recent times when the acts would just join a reality show to perform?  This method was how many major acts got their start, either playing in bars, gyms, or parking lots, building the fan base from the ground up.

AttaBoy is one of those bands that is doing just that, but also putting on an energetic live show with great songs. I recently got to see their live show twice in a day (they performed a short set during the day for Leetonia, Ohio Schools for students during the school day before performing that night), and they impressed me. The band’s day set was completely different than at night (the night show was more of a normal concert- lights, smoke machines, and some cool effects as well), where the day set was to introduce their music plugging the night show.

The lineup of Ryan Payne (lead singer/guitar/piano), Jeff Edgel (guitar/piano), Melanie Morris (bass, vocals), and Christian Morris (drums) performed songs from their current CD “Vitals,” which was an entertaining show for all ages, not just for the mostly youth crowd. Payne is not only a great singer, but an engaging front man; dancing and getting the crowd into joining him in the songs, while Edgel’s guitar work was solid throughout. Melanie’s backing vocals was also strong, along with a steady bass line. Drummer Christian Morris was a wild man throughout the show with his energy, stick tricks, and solid beats, while helping work the crowd by helping them swaying their arms to the songs and singing along with them, taking some of the pressure off of Payne. The band’s love of playing music was infectious and genuine throughout the show, which is rare in most acts in any genre. It was refreshing to see.

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The show was not all a high powered party throughout, as Payne gave time to talk about his faith and testimony, asking the crowd to consider asking for help in dealing with situations, and to challenge the audience to search and see for themselves about God and Christianity.  Most of the crowd was not a Christian audience, so this part was a nice touch for those that are fans of their Christian foundation, but it was not forced like other typical Christian acts.

attaboy-4

Overall the show was very entertaining and even started a few minutes late, due to the fact that the band was still handling their merchandise table (as I said they do it all themselves, from the set up, driving the van, controlling the lights and sound on stage, managing the merch table, and even staying afterwards until everyone got their needs- from photos to signing pictures and just talking to the crowd). As soon as the last person left, they went straight to work tearing down the lights to move on to their next gig-total grass roots effort. The band even told the youth that their policy is pay what you can for their CDs-if you have $5 or $20-just to keep fans happy in getting their music out.

The band had some fun interactions with the crowd, including bringing up audience members to have a lip synch battle and held a contest who could post the best photo of the night onto their social media page to win a free CD. The closer, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,” was a crowd favorite to sing along to as well.

 

vitals-cover

But how is the CD “Vitals” for those that cannot see them live?

“Vitals” starts off with “Set Sail”, which has a catchy guitar hook that sticks into your head throughout the song. The song kicks off the mostly positive themes throughout the CD with lyrics like “It’s time to leave the lost battles behind/Hey I’m ready to start again.”

The song “So Good” is currently my favorite track on the album. This also was a crowd favorite during the live show. The song encourages the listener “Let’s live like it’s so good to be alive.” This is a fun Pop song. Payne’s voice reminds me of Nate Ruess (formally of the band Fun) and has a great Pop sound to it.

The unique “Come Alive” has an Industrial vibe to it, along with a Pop feel. The opening bass line reminds me of “Running with the Devil” by Van Halen, and kicks into a heavier song. I could compare it to a Pop version of Nine Inch Nails in the vibe, but that doesn’t do the song justice (and because I’m not a fan of NIN). This is one of the more creative songs on the CD.

“Dance The Night Away” is a song dealing with people, especially the youth, not conforming to society’s expectations. “We refuse to live this masquerade” and “We were made to need each other/Everybody come together/We can bring this night to life.” The song is a unifying song that encourages that everyone has a place in the world.

Another favorite of mine is “Every Time,” which is perfect for me due to the soft Pop/ 1980s feel to it (me being a lover of 80s music as evident by this page). This song has the Christian theme, with the lyrics “You’re the hope reclaiming this life/Every Time I get a little lost/You find me.” The piano and guitars in the song are softer than some of the other songs, which just compliments the feel, not overpowering, and could have been on any 1980s Pop or AC charts back in the day.

“We Are More” has a memorable sing-a-long hook to the song. Lyrics like “We want to find ourselves in something that will prove/We are more/So what’s it gonna be/We’re fighting for our lives to redefine identity.” Once again, a theme of people finding their identity in society is themed in this song.

The piano heavy “Not Alone” starts out as a normal song, but double times in the bridge, which brings a creative aspect to what may feel like a basic song at first. The song turns into a surprising different style, which is unique.

The ballad “Help” starts out mellow but increases throughout the song, which isn’t a typical mid tempo song, which complements the theme of the lyrics.

My least favorite song on the CD is “Shut It Down,” which lyrically is about a school on lockdown. The song has a Punk/Ska feel to it. The drumming on the song is technically sound and nice to study, but the song itself did not resonate with me. It is not a bad song, and the youth audience will like it, it just is not my type of music compared to all the other songs on the CD. It’s not a weak song, just compared to the others, it wasn’t a favorite.

Overall the CD is really good and creative. It is not a simple Pop Christian CD, in fact there is no preaching in the CD. Many listening to it may not even know the members are Christian, which when interviewing the members, they made it an effort to not alienate to just a Christian audience. The songs are mostly run around 3-4 minutes (the total time is a little over 30 minutes for the 10 songs), which is great-no unnecessary solos or extended choruses. I always believed in leaving the listener wanting more, not waiting for the fade out to end for an extra 3 minutes (like early Bad Company songs). The lyrics are solid and positive, which more bands need to have in today’s culture in my opinion. I encourage you to check out this band, and follow them.  This act would be great for community events looking for some great music and positive messages.

For everything about the band, please check them out at www.attaboyonline.com, where you can follow everything about them, including all their social media pages. I also want to thank Ryan, Melanie, Christian, and Jeff for taking the time to give me the information I needed for the review.

Track Listing : 1.Set Sail  2.Every Time  3.Shut It Down  4. Dance The Night Away 5.Come Alive 6.We Are More 7.Help 8.Not Alone 9. When You’re Lost 10. So Good

attaboy5

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Concert Review: The Oaks Are Still Mighty

Oak Ridge Boys August 27, 2016 The Harv at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino in Chester, West Virginia.

 

I first saw The Oak Ridge Boys in 1999 at the Canfield Fair in Canfield, Ohio. I was so excited to see them because growing up, they were the first real band I ever got into, and the first record I ever had. If you have read my blogs in the past, I have mentioned the group many times and how their influence has been on me. When I saw them in Canfield, they were promoting their “Voices” CD, and the single “Baby When Your Heart Breaks Down.” I was amazed that they sounded as great as ever during that show.

Flash forward years later and after many other concerts of Poison, Warrant, and Barry Manilow, my 50th concert was coming up. 50 concerts may not seem a lot to some, but I didn’t see my first one until 1991 and haven’t seen many in the past few years. So when I read that the Oaks were coming to Mountaineer, I had to be there.

The great thing about the group is that there are so many genres that they connect to: Country, Gospel, Soul, and of course Pop (when they hit the charts with “Elvira” and “Bobby Sue.”).  During the weeks coming up to the date of the show I researched several show set lists and found that it was really going to be a celebration tour, in fact that was the name of this tour.

A few great things about a place like The Harv is that there are no opening bands for the acts, they start at 8pm, and finish usually at 9:30pm. I have seen Foreigner and Cheap Trick there in years past and the sound for both were great.

Oak-Ridge-Boys

The Oaks took the stage almost exactly at 8pm after the new CEO of the casino gave a great speech , and informed us that this was the first time the group has ever been there, which shocked me because after all the years they have toured, one would think that there were no other places left to play.

The group opened with their song “Everyday” and kicked into “American Made” right after. The band playing with them were dead on and looked like they were having fun. I was in the bleachers seats, which is quite a bit away from the stage (think of a lawn area in a pavilion show but indoors), but that didn’t stop me from having a great time.

I did miss the part of the show where Joe Bonsall mentioned that one of the members was dealing with a respiratory problem (thank you to the distraction of the people next to us talking), but you could not tell if any of them were not at their top. The harmonies were as great as anyone could sing -even young acts today cannot compete with these four.

oak-ridge-boys barn

During one break Bonsall told the story of how the four guys who just wanted to sing ended up recently being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and joked about how their birthdays are written at the museum, which he said that the tour was a celebration that there were no dates after the dash by their birthdays. He then said their new motto on Twitter would be “hash tag respect the dash.”

The night was filled with hits and the theme of proud American Values, along with a Gospel church session thrown in to please everyone. One great part, as a long time fan, was how the set list included the song “No Matter How High” (which I talked about in my “TV Themes of the 1980s” blog), which was during the late Steve Sanders era of the band.  And if that wasn’t enough to make me love the show even more, the band added two new songs that will be on their upcoming CD due out in October 2016. The new songs “Rest in You Tonight” sung by Duane Allen and William Lee Golden’s “There’s Nothing Between Us Anymore” is more than enough for me to check out the new CD.

The set list also had the John Lee Hooker song “Boom Boom” sung by the bass man himself, Richard Sterban, and a Neil Young cover “Beautiful Bluebird” sung by Golden.  I became of fan of Bonsall’s “American Beauty,” a song I was not too familiar with, but now can’t get enough of.

oaks live shot pinterest

The hits were sung as well from “Come on In” to “Love Song” and “Dream On.” Of course it’s not an Oaks Concert without closing it out with “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue.” Allen’s voice is just as soulful as ever, and Bonsall could have fronted any band with his energy and entertaining working of the crowd.

If you get the chance to see the mighty Oaks live, which they are going to start their Christmas Tour soon, definitely go and see them. Regardless of their age, the musicians in the band are so gifted (some playing multiple instruments), the vocals are as better than many other musical acts that are over 50 in any genre, and the contagiousness of just having a fun time flows all through the crowd, from the front row to the back of the bleacher area.

The only problem I had with the show was that I could have stayed there all night (and a small problem with my shirt I got- they do shrink more than the merch guy said). The Oak Ridge Boys are still at the top of the mountain as far as I’m concerned. Thank you for letting me be a part of the celebration Oaks!

Since I do not have the exact set list or order, here is what some of the night featured:

Everyday-American Made-Come On In-Beautiful Bluebird-Love Song-Ya’ll Come Back Saloon-Dream On-Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight-Roll Tennessee River-Make My Life With You-There’s Nothing Between Us Anymore-Just A Little Talk With Jesus-American Beauty-Rest in You Tonight-Time Has Made A Change in Me-No Matter How High-There Must Be Something About Me That She Loves-Touch A Hand, Make A Friend-Elvira-Bobbie Sue.

A Special Thanks to Mr. Allen for helping me with some of the song titles.

 

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