Gary Allan in concert: The ultimate ‘Tough Goodbye’
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:
Find a copy of Gary Allan’s fifth album, 1999’s “See If I Care.”
Select the eighth track, a non-single called “Guys Like Me.”
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.)
Working 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.
At 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.
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
Smoke Rings In the Dark
Sand In My Soul
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
23. Alright Guy
Right Where I Need To Be
ABOUT Mike Wolcott
Mike Wolcott is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record. 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.