REVIEW: Nashville Live – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Capitalising on the current insatiable appetite for all things Country and aiming to “transport you right into the heart of downtown Nashville, celebrating the atmosphere and energy of an evening in the home of country music”, Nashville Live at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall features a cast of seasoned West End performers recreating the great and the good of the country music scene.

Framed as an evening from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, where the world-famous venue broadcasts its radio show to the nation, complete with red on-air sign, silence/applause banner and peppered with vintage radio ads enacted by the cast, it’s an uneven evening that doesn’t know quite what it is.

To it’s credit the set list manages to cover an impressively comprehensive number of Country music eras and genres: Blue Moon of Kentucky sets the tone, quite literally, with heavy reverb on the microphones and slightly mushy sound mixing to start, it takes a while to get in to its stride. Robbie Durham elevates the proceedings with a duo of Hank Williams tunes, Hey Good Lookin’ and Jambalaya. However, there are technical glitches with Helena Gullen’s accompanying, silent fiddle.

Gullen tackles the incomparable Patsy Cline in Walking After Midnight and is competent, if a little lacklustre, again there are plenty of effects on the mic to support her voice, she fairs better in the classic, I Fall to Pieces. Chris Grahamson delivers Willie Nelson’s, On The Road Again and Always on my Mind and to the production’s credit, returns the anthem Crazy to its writer Nelson to deliver. Grahamson has a strong, clear voice and does justice to these well-loved tunes.

There are some unexpected detours courtesy of a few Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard songs and a bluegrass interlude, but it’s soon back to the big-hitters with Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man, Dolly Parton’s Jolene and I Will Always Love You performed by Lisa Wright. Wright has an excellent voice, but lacks rapport with the audience. Durham gets the audience singing along to Kenny Rogers’ foot stomper,The Gambler.

Robbie Durham, fresh from a London run and UK tour of Million Dollar Quartet, again plays Johnny Cash and showcases his astonishing vocal range and tone. Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line are particular highlights.

Grahamson returns with Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places and If Tomorrow Never Comes, again, Grahamson’s rich, clear voice is a stand out among the cast.

While there’s quality throughout the cast, the staging is incongruous. While the artists are introduced as “Dolly Parton” and “Patsy Cline” the costumes for the most part are modern, and there’s no attempt to look like the artists featured save for a few shirt changes amongst the men. That coupled with the ‘radio show’ staging and the vintage adverts in between. It doesn’t work. Either full-on tribute in wigs and costume or a band of musicians just playing covers of these songs, both of these would have worked, this mash-up just confuses. While the auditorium is full, the audience are singing along, the atmosphere is ‘flat’ and there’s a LOT of chat from the audience throughout most of the ballads and the songs that are less familiar.

A great set list and some flawless vocals but the show lacks the passion and energy from the performers that marks a truly entertaining night out.

Touring Scotland – more info at: http://www.mapletreeentertainment.com/currently-touring/Nashville+Live/16/tourdates/