Back to the Bowery Tour
April 26, 2013
When I began my love affair with country music over ten years ago, my friends told me to start with three artists: Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and Alabama. As I listened to all three and instantly loved each of their different styles, there was one thing that made me feel a bit empty: Alabama had broken up and I would never be able to see them perform live. Well, that changed thanks to the band’s new reunion tour, “Back to the Bowery”, celebrating 40 years together.
I was very happy when Alabama announced they would be playing the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, Connecticut, the site of one of the best concert experiences of my life (see: http://millertimemusicspot.blogspot.com/2011/07/night-i-was-part-of-dierks-bentley.html). The Oakdale Theater is presented by Toyota and is a 5,000 seat performing arts center which each seat in the house has a perfect view of the stage. And, on April 26, 2013, it was filled to capacity with people of all ages to listen to a true legendary act.
Before the band took to the stage, the large screens on both sides of the stage flashed images of the band members over the course of the past forty years as well as trivia questions about their life. Alabama was founded in 1969 by Randy Owen (lead vocals), and his cousin Teddy Gentry. They were joined by Jeff Cook and later Mark Herndon (who is not with the band for this Tour). They were originally called “Wildcountry” and changed its name to 1972.
Alabama took to the stage and instantly ripped into “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (Gotta Have a Fiddler in the Band)” and the crowd went wild. The band sounded like they hadn’t aged a bit as Randy Owen’s vocals were spot on. The band members’ had some questionable clothing choices, which showed no regard for fashion or matching; however, I doubt one person in the crowd really cared. As a green fiddle screamed, a bass guitar was pounded, and sing-a-longs ensured, it was exactly the type of show I had imagined all these years listening to their legendary songs.
The show’s early part of the setlist was full of high energy as classics such as “Dixieland Delight”, “Tennessee River”, and a fast-moving updated version of “Song of the South”, which had everyone stomping along. They gradually incorporated some ballads and even brought a couple on stage who had “Feels So Right” as their wedding song many years ago. Before “Born Country”, a fan brought up an FFA flag, in which Randy was happy to hold up with pride.
Randy Owen is still quite the a showman as he dominated the performance. His vocals are still perfect and he added in jokes, jumps, waves, and comments throughout. He spoke of the Band’s upcoming project which will feature many contemporary artists as well as a few new songs from Alabama. Before singing “Love in the First Degree”, he stated the next time you hear this will be with Luke Bryan, hinting that it will be a radio single.
The band went off script as they dedicated a song to their friend and fellow legend, George Jones, who had passed away that morning. They performed “She Thinks I Still Care” which was followed by a standing ovation. And after ending their set with “Angels Among Us, “Roll On”, and “My Home’s in Alabama”, there was only song that could be worthy of an Encore. The crowd clapped and chanted and the band responded with “Mountain Music”, the signature song of Alabama, which was also payed tribute to in 2011 by Brad Paisley in, “Old Alabama”, which featured the band.
In the end, there were no big projection screens, no smoke or explosions. Instead, it was three musicians who created one of the most legendary bands of all time, singing the hits that have made them so beloved. Song after song was a sing-a-long and I felt myself smiling as I walked out of the Oakdale Theater. I can finally say that I saw Alabama perform live.
- If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (Gotta Have a Fiddler in the Band)
- Tennessee River
- Dixieland Delight
- In the Sky (bye and bye)
- Song of the South
- Feels So Right
- Lady Down on Love
- Born in the World
- Born Country
- Love in the First Degree
- She Thinks I Still Care (George Jones cover)
- When We Make Love
- There’s No Way
- Dancin’, Shaggin’ on the Boulevard
- Closer You Get
- In a Hurry
- Angels Among Us
- Roll On
- My Home’s in Alabama
- Mountain Music (Enore)