Soundboard

Gary Allan in concert: The ultimate ‘Tough Goodbye’

Tahoe Onstage

Gary Allan’s first appearance at the Nugget Casino Resort is unforgettable.
Photos by Sherrie Oilar Wolcott / Tahoe Onstage

First things first: If you’re among the ever-growing segment of the population that believes real country music died with Merle Haggard two and a half years ago, you are hereby ordered to take the Tahoe Onstage Gary Allan Challenge.

The challenge goes like this:

  1. Find a copy of Gary Allan’s fifth album, 1999’s “See If I Care.”
  2. Select the eighth track, a non-single called “Guys Like Me.”
  3. If your speakers only go to 10, turn it up to 11.

And by the time Allan gets to the line that goes “All that’s left in Bakersfield is a jukebox and it’s haunted by old songs and memories,” if you don’t feel the ghost of Buck Owens kicking your spine with a red, white and blue boot, you never had a country soul to begin with.

And if that doesn’t work, try watching him sing the song in concert.

While it’s true the country music industry has often (in the words of the song) tried to put an end to guys like Gary Allan — meaning, guys who rely on actual talent, musicianship and great songs instead of flashy Music Row marketing and that awful country/hip-hop mashup-stuff that dominates the airwaves these days — he remains just too darned talented to go away without one big fight. And, as evidenced by Friday night’s 24-song concert at the Grand Ballroom, he’s not likely to actually have a hard time finding a place to play his guitar anytime soon.

Allan mixed songs from his 11-album, multi-platinum career spanning more than two decades and had the crowd — especially the female half — eating out of the palm of his hand from the beginning. There were times that the front-row area felt more like a Tom Jones concert than a country music show; in fact, the first bra of the evening appeared on stage during the sixth song, “Man To Man.” (Perhaps “Mammary to Mammary” would have been more appropriate.)

Sherrie Oilar / Tahoe OnstageWorking with a tight seven-piece band in their first show after more than a month off, Allan had the crowd on its feet with the opening number, “Man of Me,” and hit the first early climax with one of his biggest hits, “Nothin’ On But the Radio.” The first half of the show was also highlighted by his smoldering hit single “Smoke Rings In the Dark,” an always powerful song that seemed even more sultry in such a vintage casino setting. “Tough Goodbye” — a song title that would have an even more eerie meaning later in the night — hit home as well.

It was the second half of the show where Allan really showed he still has a lot of surprises left in the tank. Performing solo on acoustic guitar for the first time all night, he sang a new song called “Unfiltered” that actually had much of the crowd singing along the second time they heard the chorus. That’s quite a rare feat for a song none of them had heard before that night.

“That sounds like a hit single to me,” Allan said, adding he’d just turned the song in to his record company a week ago.

He followed that up with a Waylon Jennings cover, “Her Man,” and rocked hard on “It Ain’t the Whiskey” and “Mess Me Up,” which was the 17th song he played in the first hour of the show – a number pretty typical of his fast-paced performances.

“Watching Airplanes,” probably Allan’s most popular song, brought the main portion of the show to a close, and “Alright Guy,” his hit version of the Todd Snider song, kicked off the encore. It was probably the only time all night where the male voices singing in the audience came across with the same volume as the women.

“Right Where I Need to Be” closed the encore, with Allan spending at least 10 extra minutes signing autographs and exchanging high-fives from the stage as a never-ending swarm of fans kept pushing closer, creating one challenge after another for a security crew that definitely earned its money on this evening.

In short, it was the kind of night many music fans probably wish would never end. And, in a very unfortunate way, the evening itself went much longer than anyone would have liked.

Sherri Oilar / Tahoe OnstageAt the end of the encore, it was announced that the Nugget parking garage was closed and people would be unable to leave because of an incident in the area. That “incident” ended up being an armed showdown between a man in a car parked at an entrance to the casino parking garage and police.

As a result, for well over an hour after the show, the Nugget casino area was filled with music fans sitting on the floor, in most available chairs and, of course, spilling into the bar areas, where they watched a World Series game that didn’t seem like it was ever going to end either.

Fortunately, the suspect was taken into custody and, according to television reports, nobody was injured, and most people who wanted to leave were able to leave slightly after 11 p.m.

They left with songs on their lips and their ears still ringing from what has become a northern Nevada tradition — the early fall Gary Allan show. This was his first performance at the Nugget and, based on the crowd reaction and the strong quality of the sound and setting, it isn’t likely to be his last.

And that’s a great thing for country music. As long as there are people as talented as Gary Allan around to still carry the flag of classic country greatness, there’s no way anybody could ever put an end to guys like him.

  • Gary Allan
    Grand Ballroom at the Nugget Casino
    Oct. 26, 2018
  • Man of Me
  • A Feeling Like That
  • Nothin’ On But the Radio
  • Guys Like Me
  • It Would Be You
  • Man to Man
  • Pieces
  • Smoke Rings In the Dark
  • Sand In My Soul
  • Tough Goodbye
  • Unfiltered
  • Her Man
  • Tough Little Boys
  • Songs About Rain
  • It Ain’t the Whiskey
  • Every Storm Runs Out of Rain
  • Mess Me Up
  • LIfe Ain’t Always Beautiful
  • The Best I’ve Ever Had
  • Get Off On the Pain
  • Like It’s A Bad Thing
  • Watching Airplanes
  • (encore)
    23. Alright Guy
  1. Right Where I Need To Be

    Sherrie Oilar

About Mike Wolcott

Mike Wolcott is the director of the Northern California Design Center and a 40-year newspaper veteran who has worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, the Eureka Times-Standard, Corning Daily Observer, Red Bluff Daily News and Digital First Media. His proudest musical moment came when he was scolded by Who bassist John Entwistle for making too much noise at a Roger Daltrey concert. He especially likes classic rock, classic old-time country, Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan and all three Hanks. Parsons calls him “Wally.” When he’s not slaying deadlines, you can find Wally playing guitar in a Corning-based cover band called Punches the Clown.

6 comments

  1. Gary Allan is the best live performer since Elvis. Saw Elvis 18x. Gary 12x. Old hits, new hits, high energy. captures an audience.

  2. Wow! I just read your article on Gary Allan & you couldn’t have hit the bullseye better! I’ve been a big fan since he started & he’s not gotten the recognition he truly deserves! Thank you so much! I live in Iowa now (Tucson before)& believe me whenever he’s close we go! ( My Husband is a real trooper) We go see him in 2weeks where he’ll be playing @ Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines for My Birthday & Our Anniversary! Again Wonderful Article!

  3. What a perfectly written praise for Gary. He is so underplayed on the radio that it’s a shame. His record label should be ashamed that they are not standing behind him and let him write and sing his music his way. Don’t change this brilliant and talented man.

  4. I was at this concert… front and center! I drive over 530 miles from Portland Oregon. I have been a huge fan since concert #1 in December 2011 in Vegas. This was my 37th concert I’ve been to. Gary and his awesome band always puts on the best show ever!! We love you Gary!! 🎵🎼🎸🎶🎻🎹🎤

  5. My wife and I have seen him several times. Both of my daughter’s are huge fans as well. My oldest used to cry in the car where ever we went. Gary’s songs about rain always calmed her down to the point of a nap. His sound is amazing and his talent is endless!!! The music speaks to so many people! I can’t wait for the show in Wisconsin Dells!!! “Guys like me” is one of my favorites. Right up there with Life Ain’t Always Beautiful and Drinkin’ Dark Wiskey!!

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