Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (featuring Kentucky Thunder)
The Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN 10/5/2013
The Ryman is a phenomenal venue to see a great act. This show was one of those that you can’t truly forget. The only downside of the venue was the hard church pews that you sit in. But they have been that way forever so that comes with the territory. The acoustics were spot on making it easy to hear everything and the way it is arranged everyone has a perfect view from the front row to the back of the balcony.
The lights dimmed and the show began exactly on time which is a rarity in today’s concert world and the temperature of the venue remained comfortable throughout the night.
The show contained a lot of humorous banter between bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs and pop icon Bruce Hornsby. In between the tunes they interspersed thoughts and stories of how they met and how they got together playing. It gave the audience a better insight into the show. While it does seem like an unlikely pairing of people and music genres for some reason it simply works and works well. I personally expected to see a little more of the Bruce I know from the pop world but that is not what this show is about. It is Bluegrass all the way and expect to see nothing but bluegrass if you attend this show.
The only sour spot on the evening came about 38 minutes into the show when they were bantering at the end of a song and the house light tech brought the house lights up to allow the performers to be able to see the audience. This was answered with a resounding round of boos from the crowd. Perhaps they assumed that since the house lights were up the show was over? We’ll never really know but Mr. Skaggs and Mr. Hornsby took it in stride and made jokes about being booed. They turned an awkward situation into a bit of comical relief.
Kentucky Thunder was tight and lived up to the reputation of being one of the best bands in the business. No one missed a note or a cue and it was amazing that even though mics were used to reproduce the acoustic sound and no one was plugged in electronically, there was absolutely no feedback.
There were several songs that brought rousing applause throughout the show, most were older tune that were Bill Monroe Classics but the one that brought the house down was Bruce and Ricky doing a back and forth version of the bluegrass standard Uncle Penn.
Country music and Bluegrass are alive and well and the near sellout of the 2,362 seats at the Ryman shows that people still enjoy traditional music. The cross section of people enjoying the show ran from the very old to the very young and they were all smiling, tapping toes and singing along to the songs. And what is amazing is that all of this foot stomping and clapping along happened without the help or need of drums. Simply a piano, standup bass, guitars, mandolin, fiddle and banjo or dobro keeping the backbeat.
If you get the chance to go see this terrific line up I would suggest that you make the show, it is not something you will regret and you might even find yourself falling in love with real music again. Bill Monroe has to be smiling down that night.