Trace Adkins, who's known for his high energy show, brought his toned down, more intimate Songs and Stories tour to Nashville's Ryman Auditorium last weekend, affording the audience a more up-close-and-personal experience. The sold-out crowd loved the music, laughed at Trace's jokes and sang along with the songs, but just in case they hadn't, Trace made sure to explain that some things wouldn't be different about the show.

Dressed in a black shirt and jeans, the Louisiana native entered through the barn doors at the back of the stage and immediately broke into his hit "Days Like This." After he finished the song, he quipped, "Welcome to the Ryman and my Songs and Stories tour. We don't come out and put a boot in your ass right away on this tour. But we will do that before you leave. This is just foreplay!"

Trace then paused a moment to talk about "Days Like This," explaining that it was written on the deck of his cabin outside Nashville. "Casey Beathard and Kenny Beard were up there with me and we were just drinking coffee and we started writing about what we could see from that deck. You can do it too; it's not rocket science. Just throw some words together and make them rhyme, and then sing it. It's easy."

After performing "It's Who You Know," Trace reflected on being at the Ryman, often called the Mother Church of Country Music. "It's cool to be here. When they made me a member of the Grand Ole Opry, someone said to me, 'You will carry on the torch for traditional country music. A couple weeks later we released 'Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.' Everybody was like, 'What the hell are you doing?'"

The audience broke into laughter at the story and Trace continued, "I like traditional country music and I put some on every album. Here's one from the last album," after which he sang "Poor Folks."

Trace took time to recognize his band, saying, "This is a great group of guys. I've took them around the world. We've done several USO shows and they never batted an eye in the areas where we went. When we go on those tours we hardly ever get to play for the Marines. I wanted to write a song for them. And there's a kid that lives next to me and it's to honor him too; he's done a few tours."

After he sang "Semper Fi," the country star received a standing ovation. "That song is hard to get through sometimes, especially when there's a bunch of jarheads sitting on the front row," Trace admitted, acknowledging several military service members in the audience.

Making another reference to the Ryman and the Opry, Trace talked about the next song. "This song is called 'Proud to be Here,' and I am proud to be here. Minnie Pearl said that many times from this stage."

Trace didn't mention it, but fans no doubt recalled that the singer's house burned down shortly before he released the album which featured that song as its title track.

"I grew up in a little bitty town, way out in the middle of nowhere," he said. "My mom called me the other day and said she's running for mayor. I asked who was running against her and she said nobody. I could hear my dad in the background doing, 'I'm not voting for you anyway.' And he won't!"

"I'm having a good time. I don't know if you are or not," Trace said with a laugh. "People always come up to me and say, 'Man, you're tall.' I just tell them it's all relative. If they went and stood by a short person, then they'd be tall. If I was standing by Shaq[uille O'Neal], I'd be short."

Trace paused, then said, "I can prove it. Shaq, come on out here."

The crowd went crazy as the former NBA superstar took the stage next to Trace, who did, in fact, look a little shorter with Shaq standing beside him.

"When I decided to do this theater tour, I didn't realize that they usually take an intermission in theaters," Trace said after Shaq left the stage to sit in the audience. "I'm gonna do one more and then we'll take a short break."

When he heard a few boos from the audience, Trace looked out and said, "Yeah, you go on and boo. Shaq has my back." The singer ended the first half of the show with "Always Gonna Be That Way" and "Every Light in the House."

The second half of his performance off to a rousing start with "Ladies Love Country Boys," followed by several of his hits including "You're Gonna Miss Me" and "This Ain't No Love Song."

"Three of my daughters are here but two of them blew me off for a birthday party," the dad of five informed the crowd. "I know where I stand, I guess."

After singing "You're Gonna Miss This," Trace talked about the tune being nominated for a Grammy. "I figured that song had a chance to win so I went out. It's a freak show! The competition is really who has the biggest bodyguard. Snoop [Dogg] had one that makes Shaq look like a midget! Anyway, when this next song was nominated, I said 'Y'all just send it to me if I win.'"

Trace continued his intro of the song, saying, "Some of my favorite memories when I was a kid was going fishing with my granddad. You need to make memories with your kids while you can. That's what it's all about. My youngest [daughter], Trinity, was in the video for 'Just Fishin'."

After singing the tune, Trace informed the audience that the "Just Fishin'" video is his mother's favorite. "And this one is my dad's favorite," he said with a grin, as he launched into "One Hot Mama."

Trace showcased his band, performing the classic rock hit, "How Long (Has This Been Going On)." He explained to the audience, "When I do a song like that it's not a random thing. You know who you were in love with when you hear that song."

The singer finished with "Songs About Me" and "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk." After a standing ovation he returned to the stage. "I get paid to ride that bus sitting outside," he said. "I do this for free. This is a song about what we do."

After singing "Ride," Trace took time to sign a few autographs from the stage before he waved goodbye to his fans. Shaq was already gone from the audience as fans made their way out the doors of the Ryman, taking home good memories along with the stories that Trace shared about his songs and his life.

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