Blake Shelton Rocks the Ryman
Blake Shelton was riding high on Thursday night, not only because his current single 'Hillbilly Bone' was at the top of the charts, but because he was playing his first full-length show at Music City's legendary Ryman Auditorium..
Newcomer Brett Eldredge kicked off the sold-out show with a 20-minute set, featuring his emotional single 'Raymond,' as well as 'One Mississippi' and 'You Look Lonely Too.'
After a brief intermission, Blake's set opened with a simulated radio show coming over the speakers, titled the 'Big Whiz,' featuring WSIX's Gerry House as 'Les.' He was trying to conduct a fake phone interview with Blake, calling him Brad and set rules for the chat as the curtain opened to reveal a multi-tier silver stage. Blake ended the interview with some choice words, telling the rude DJ, "I am Blake Shelton, and you can kiss my ass!" He launched into the Rhett Akins' penned 'Kiss My Country Ass' from behind a billowing white curtain that dropped to reveal the guitar-wielding singer, who made his way down to the front of the stage to finish the song.
Blake stopped for a moment to greet the audience and exclaimed, "One of the things I love most about playing the Mother Church of Country Music is it's the only church where it's OK to drink alcohol and raise hell," before launching into 'The More I Drink.' The swaggering singer slowed it down with 'I'll Just Hold On,' which showcased his leading-man vocals.
Going without his trusty axe, he introduced his next song by talking about a legendary performer. "One of my all-time favorite country singers is a guy named Conway Twitty." He mentioned that he was lucky enough to have a hit on one of Conway's songs a few years ago, which was the Top 10 tune, 'Goodbye Time,' from his 'Barn & Grill' album.
The tall, lanky performer, known for his sense of humor, got in some funny lines during the night, and took a couple of minutes to address the crowd, which was partially made up of industry professionals and folks from his record label. "I was told not to talk too much tonight while I was in Nashville, [because it could be] similar to something I say on Twitter. i was told to try to get in and out of here before I get run out of town. Most of you know what kind of guy I am. I'm the kind of guy who pulls into a Wendy's drive-thru, and I don't know whether to order a No. 2 with cheese or slap the [crap] out of the the kid who's wearing his jeans below [his waist]." Dropping his head, he mumbled, "Sorry, Warner Bros."
Having just released his new album, the SIX PAK collection, 'Hillbilly Bone,' Blake pulled out one of the new songs, 'Almost Alright,' which had a bit of island flavor in the instrumentation. After the tune, he noticed a few ladies near the front of the stage who were perhaps, in his estimation, having too good of a time. "This is a country music concert. You're having way too much fun. Settle down a little bit." When a couple of women yelled out, "I love you Blake,' he replied, "I love you too ... especially since Miranda isn't here," referring to girlfriend Miranda Lambert, who couldn't be there as she was kicking off her headlining tour in Beckley, W. Va. the same night.
Blake's second No. 1 single, 'The Baby,' was next, and he describes it as "one of the saddest songs I've ever heard." He followed it with his 2003 uptempo single about two best friends, 'Playboys of the Southwestern World.'
Blake's next part of the show, featured the singer on a stool playing a few songs on acoustic guitar. While he was getting settled, he said, "I won't lie to you, well I will, but I'm not right now. I'm really nervous about this, nervous as hell. This is the first time I've done a straight-ahead concert in Nashville." The crowd applauded, and he replied, "I'm not real sure how to take that applause." He continued by saying he was actually "freaking out" about the show, because people in Nashville have many entertainment options to choose from and he "didn't know if anybody would come and see me."
Setting up his next song, Blake said he worked up something everyone knew and could sing along to, just in case he sucked. "This is one of my favorite songs. I tend to get a little emotional with this song, but I'll do my best." He then treated the audience to the commercial jingle, 'FreeCreditReport.com.' After the applause and laughter faded, Blake stood up, took a bow with great flourish, and wiped fake tears from his eyes.
He next ran through the hit 'Don't Make Me,' before being rejoined by his band to perform another song from the new album, 'You'll Always Be Beautiful,' as well his No. 1 hit, 'Home,' 'Nobody But Me,' his debut single and first No. 1, 'Austin,' and 'She Wouldn't Be Gone.' While singing his last song, 'Some Beach,' several women on the front row danced along, holding their cocktails without barely spilling a drop.
After the lights went down, the audience clapped and stomped, persuading Blake to come back and give them more of what they came for -- the hits. He returned to the stage to the strains of his current chart-topper, 'Hillbilly Bone.' The crowd bounced out of their seats, erupted into cheers, and began to sing along when they heard his duet partner, Trace Adkins' deep harmonies, even before he walked out into the spotlight. After the two wrapped up the song, Blake said, " Trace has always wanted to sing a bone song." When Trace left the stage, Blake closed the show with one of his most popular hits, song, 'Ol' Red.'
At a pre-show cocktail reception, Blake and Trace mingled with members of the music industry, press and friends, and after being congratulated on the No. 1 song, 'Hillbilly Bone,' Trace said he hoped the collaboration would win a trophy at this year's ACM Awards, where the two are nominated for Vocal Event of the Year. He joked that he wanted to get up on stage to accept the award for "such a stupid song." A post-show party was held at a new honky-tonk on 2nd Avenue, VIP concert-goers were treated to an open bar and a spinning DJ. Seen in the crowd was the man of the hour, Blake, who was shaking hands and greeting old friends, including Harry Smith from CBS' 'The Early Show' and newcomer Laura Bell Bundy ('Giddy On Up'), among others.
Blake has a few days off before heading back on the road to Oakland, Calif., on April 3.