Should Alabama lead singer Randy Owen ever forget the words to any of his hit songs while on the band's 40th anniversary "Back To The Bowery" tour, he need not worry. More than likely, the audience will have his back.
Sunday night, the Country Music Hall of Fame band opened up a sold-out two-night stint at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, and the night proved to be an expression of emotion from both the band to the audience and vice versa. Opening up with a bit of Brad Paisley's "Old Alabama," which helped to spark new interest in the band, the trio of Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry, and Owen delivered one hit after another -- ranging from early staples such as "Tennessee River," "Old Flame," and "If You're Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle In The Band)." From the opening notes all the way through to the night's final chorus of "Mountain Music," the crowd sung the lyrics back to the band.
In this time and era when artists tend to celebrate how "country" they are, Alabama demonstrated why they just might be the forerunners of this trend, with songs such as "High Cotton," "Born Country," and the Bob McDill gem "Song Of The South" each touching a chord with the audience with a tribute to the country lifestyle.
Alabama also reached into their past, performing their 1997 retrospective single "Dancin...Shaggin' On The Boulevard," which told of the band's early days playing at the Bowery in Myrtle Beach in 1973. At the same time, they also shined the spotlight on their current material – performing both of the new cuts from their Alabama & Friends disc, "All American," and "That's How I Was Raised." Owen's vocals sounds like they haven't aged a day since 1985 – even on the new material. The band also gave props to the artists that appeared on the album – which debuted at No. 2 on the Country Albums chart, citing cover versions of their hits by acts such as Trisha Yearwood, Florida Georgia Line, and Rascal Flatts.
All in all, it was a great night for a trip back in time with one of the format's all-time best. The only quibble we have is that the night was too short, but with well over 50 top ten hits to their name, it would have been tough to include them all. On second thought, that gives us something to look forward on their next tour, right?