Manhattan, City Winery, 3/11/13:
40 years is a long time to do almost anything. It should take some people aback when they learn that The Oak Ridge Boys are out on their 40th anniversary tour. The fact that these guys are able to stand one another and stand the repetition of the songs for so long is saying one thing. But for the grueling life of a touring band of musicians, 40 years is really saying something.
Legendary, is one word. The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues. These are just some of the bands who have been out touring in one form or another for around as long. Of course The Oak Ridge Boys play a different kind of tune from any of those other acts. They recently rolled in on their impressive tour bus to show their very best on the “It’s Only Natural” tour.
For those unfamiliar the current incarnation of The Oak Ridge Boys, at least as I saw them was as a 10 piece lineup in full. The four main musicians are the main attraction. The other six musicians onstage played drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, and everyone seemed to swap in with various instruments at different stages.
As we descended on our seats they were just saying one of the four singers’, Richard, had recently tore his Achilles tendon. Richard was the bass vocalist and he had to remain seated.
From their first song out of the gate, “One in a Million,” this audience was really receptive. The audience was small but they were lively. Some of the other favorites they played this night included songs like “Y’all Come Back Saloon,” “Ozark Mountain Jubilee,” “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” and “Gonna Take A Lot of River.”
I enjoyed the simple twang and toe tapping harmony of the band, but I have to say that for a concert, at times the whole thing felt like a bit of an infomercial. They kept mentioning how they were streaming on “Sirius,” and they were “sponsored by Cracker Barrel,” and whomever else. It was a little off-putting for sure.
But like the band said this was their “All hits show.” And for all their blatant consumerism and seemingly reflexive sponsorship-speak, these guys also know how to get an audience clapping and the audience which was here really wanted to be here.
Their music is pure, simple, and infectiously catchy. All the choreographed moves and onstage theatrics show this band still knows how to put on a show.
As the audience lifted I couldn’t help but notice that it was s weighted mix of older men with long gray hair in flannels shirts wearing baseball caps and a smattering of younger folks. These youngsters sat with the intensity of youth but were also already brimming over with the tell-tale signs that they would one day swap places with the other folks in the hall.