Monday’s sold-out Meijer Gardens concert featured the return of the affable, award-winning singer and guitarist, who charmed the capacity crowd in a variety of ways.
After filling in for the late Glenn Frey on the Eagles’ 2018 tour, Vince Gill and his gilded band swung by Grand Rapids’ Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on Monday for 2-1/2 hours of pining, chuckles and musical gems.
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“We learned about plants today,” Gill quipped as he praised the verdant beauty of the Gardens venue.
The 61-year-old was full of praise, not just for the outdoor venue, but for his top-drawer band, including bassist Glenn Worf, drummer-vocalist Billy Thomas, keys player John Jarvis, guitarist-vocalist Jeff White, guitarist Tom Bukovac, guitarist-vocalist Jedd Hughes, vocalist Wendy Moten and steel player Paul Franklin, a Michigander.
The frontman lauded the talents of those behind him, especially Moten, who sang two solo tunes in the middle of the show, “just because everyone on the planet should hear her voice,” Gill said.
In typical Gill fashion, one of country music’s most all-around gorgeous voices — and one of the genre’s most richly nuanced guitar players — basically said everyone on stage was better than him. He even celebrated his guitar tech, a friend of his since the sixth grade. This good cheer spilled over into the crowd and made the whole night upbeat and buoyant.
Gill also mentioned wife and fellow singer Amy Grant several times, much to the enjoyment of the crowd who cheered every time he brought her up, beginning with a mention in the tune “Guitar Player.” He also played an as-yet-to-be released song about the profound effect of his wife’s prayers — a beautiful tribute.
It was good to know that Gill, a 21-time Grammy winner, was happy at home, because a large portion of his music could make a grown man cry.
FLOWING EMOTIONS AND THROWBACK COUNTRY
Heartbroken songs such as “Tryin’ to Get Over You” and “Colder Than Winter” could make anyone break down and wail. The latter was one he “never, ever, ever” plays, but made an exception on Monday because a friend wanted to hear it. The mournful tones and words were wrenching, and Gill broke up a couple of times as he performed. The crowd responded to his vulnerability (“I’m just a softie!”) with many standing to applaud.
More emotion flowed through “Key to Life,” a song about his late father, “Go High on That Mountain” and “Jenny Dreamed of Trains,” one of several songs he wrote about missing his oldest daughter when he was on the road during her childhood.
Other tunes were throwback country fun, like the twangy “cheatin’ song,” “Pocket Full of Gold,” and “Old Country Shuffle” and “Take Your Memory with You,” featuring Franklin’s superb steel guitar.
Nifty “Old Lucky Diamond Motel,” an ode to growing up on Route 66 in Oklahoma, spoke of old timey motels with “ashtrays and truckers and two-timing mothers.”
Gill is a born storyteller, whether weaving a yarn or writing a song. Considering he sang 28 songs, the amiable singer managed lots of chatter in between. A fan approached the stage with flowers for him and he joked that “security is doing a helluva job,” and that he would “bring them home to Amy and tell her they were from me.” He spoke of being a father of five and grandfather of two, and the sadness of missing his grandson’s fourth birthday on the road.
Everyone got a good laugh when Gill mistook a father and daughter in the front for the couple who got married on Monday and were at the show. That couple was actually a little farther back, still dressed in their formal wedding attire.
For most of the relaxing show, fans sat in lawn chairs or on blankets; rarely did they get up and bop around. Exceptions were the ripping rockabilly “Next Big Thing,” and the barn burning “Liza Jane,” which sent the happy crowd out on a high note.
PHOTO GALLERY: Vince Gill at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Eric Stoike (On the Run Photography)
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC