This year marks five decades of performing for the group Exile, and Saturday night's show at the Franklin Theatre underscored not only the success the group has enjoyed on the charts over the years, but also the bond between them and their loyal legion of fans, who sang the lyrics back to the band all performance long.
The line-up, which consists of J.P. Pennington, Les Taylor, Sonny LeMaire, Marlon Hargis, and Steve Goetzman – the same one that dominated the country charts in the mid to late 1980s breezed through a 90-minute set that featured many of their biggest hits.
Up-tempo songs like "I Could Get Used To You," "She's A Miracle," and "I Don't Want To Be A Memory" have endured well over the years, as has the magical three-part harmony between Pennington, Taylor, and LeMaire.
From start to finish, the group's Middle Tennessee stop on their 50th Anniversary tour turned out to be a giant sing-a-long. Pennington's voice sounds just like it did in 1985, and Les Taylor – long respected as one of the most bluesy vocalists in the format – just might have gotten even better with time. The two traded off lead vocal duties throughout the night, with LeMaire singing lead on later hits such as "Yet" and "Nobody's Talkin," recorded during periods when Pennington and Taylor had left the group to pursue solo careers.
As great as the hits are, some of the highlights of the night included moments when the group reached outside of their hit catalog. They received a huge amount of response on their cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" - the title track of their current EP, and brought the house down with a stirring version of the Gospel classic "Didn't It Rain," a song that Pennington's mother, Lily Mae Ledford, recorded as part of the Coon Creek Girls. The song definitely qualified as a group effort, with each member contributing to make it a highlight of the evening. Also notable was "Bread On The Table," a song from their latest project.
In addition to their own hits, the band also gave the crowd a taste of five songs that had been penned by one of the members – ranging from Alabama's "The Closer You Get" and "Take Me Down," Restless Heart's "When She Cries," Diamond Rio's "A Beautiful Mess," and "It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy," a hit for Janie Fricke.
Of course, any Exile performance would be incomplete without a nod to their 1978 pop classic "Kiss You All Over," and the band didn't let their fan faithful down – delivering a spot on version that sent people home very satisfied. Some things get better with time, and Exile is one of them.