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Alabama
A Concert Review

March 23, 1997

Star Plaza Theater

Merrilville, IN

A Review and Photos by:
The Dude on the Right
Randy Owen
Randy Owen
You know, I'm at the Star Plaza Theatre in Indiana and I see no other press folks taking pictures, really don't see anyone else taking notes, and as I'm sitting there waiting to take my photos and get to my seat a nice lady goes "Are you from the Chicago Tribune?" I politely tell her no - that I'm from Entertainment Ave!, and she asks me "Why doesn't the Tribune or Sun Times ever cover Alabama?" Well, I don't know. Maybe it's because these guys aren't the "cool, new" band on the country scene, maybe they think no one wants to read about them, maybe they think this band doesn't have an impact any more. I don't know why there is the seeming lack of "big-city" press, but I do know that this is a group that never has seemed to have forgotten their fans, and their fans haven't ever forgotten about them. From around the world the fans keep coming to the shows, the fans keep buying their music, the fans keep requesting hit after hit. And the band keeps playing. The band - Alabama.

As the band that has been dominating country music for years took the stage, behind them was a backdrop of, I'm pretty sure, various album covers from their history. And as the first notes to their new single, "Sad Lookin' Moon" filled the theater, I noticed something a little different from the last Alabama show I saw. The band seemed energized, the band seemed "on", the band had an attitude, a confidence, that they are still the band to be reckoned with when it comes to country music.
Jeff Cook
Jeff Cook
It seemed like one of two things to me - One: That they had just gotten off of a break and were refreshed and ready for the road or Two: They were pissed. Tired of being passed over for awards that should have been theirs, they are on a mission to reclaim their throne as the band to which all other country bands are rated against. Maybe it's a little bit of both, maybe it's none of the above, but of all of the Alabama shows I've seen this one almost went down as the all-time best of Alabama. Why almost? Well, you'll just have to finish this review to find out.

Like most Alabama shows, this one was about the hits that have spanned their career, and much like most Alabama shows this was as much about the fans as it was about the music. But not like the last show I saw, which was great and all, this one had Jeff Cook wailin' on guitar just a little bit stronger, had Teddy Gentry hitting those bass notes a little bit cleaner, had the drummer dude bangin' away a little crisper and had Randy Owen smilin' more, talking with the crowd more, and being the Randy Owen I remember from the first Alabama show I remember seeing years ago. From "She and I" to "The Closer You Get" to one of the best versions of "Tennessee River" I've heard in decades, this show never really slowed.

 
Randy having fun!
Randy having fun!
And what would an Alabama show be without their patented, well, alright, maybe not patented, but probably one of the best crowd interaction segments of any band out there. Alabama is never afraid of their fans (although sometimes I think they should be from some of the "stalker" types I've seen), but they always seem to make a connection and this show had it more than ever. With a little "Happy Birthday" sing-a-long, to a request for "As Far As I Can Go" for a couple who said it was their "first dance" song at their wedding (Randy kinda figured they meant "Forever's As Far As I'll Go," though the jokes came flying for the couple's choice of song title), to the band bringing some fans on stage to sing "Song of the South," it never ceases to amaze me just how much Alabama tries to click with every person in their audience.

They did hit a couple of songs from their new CD, "Dancin' On the Boulevard," kept the night filled with an up-tempo show, and as the band left the stage after "Mountain Music" before their first encore, I was feeling good, even if the next day was a Monday. Then the band comes out and blasts through "I'm In a Hurry (and I Don't Know Why)" and that blazing version of "Tennessee River" and I was ready to party all night. So too was the rest of the crowd, but then, kinda like a premature ending to what was building as a fabulous night, the lights came up.
Teddy Gentry
Teddy Gentry
"What do you mean they're done?" I thought. "It's only been about an hour and fifteen minutes." And unfortunately I wasn't alone because I heard many gripes from the folks around me about how short the show was. Now I know sometimes there are reasons for a band leaving early, and I've always been one to say the band should at least say something like "we've got to drive a million miles to our show tomorrow - this is our last song - thanks for coming - Good Night," or "I've been having problems with my voice so my doctor said I have to cut it short - thanks for coming - Good Night" or even "I've really got to go to the bathroom - this is the last song - thanks for coming - Good Night," just any explanation will usually do, but tonight they just seemed to leave, and it was just too bad because everything was leading to this being one of the classic Alabama shows of all time. Me being me, especially if I'm going to knock a band for a short show, I was curious as to just how long this show compared to some others and sure enough it clocked in at some fifteen or more minutes shorter than previous shows. It doesn't sound like much, but the crowd sure did notice.

All in all it was a great Alabama show, much more up-tempo, much more fired-up, much more energetic than I've seen in a while. But since our review rating is weighted towards the crowd I've got to drop a thumb and only give Alabama ONE THUMB UP this time. As much as they spent the hour and fifteen minutes pleasing their fans, their abrupt departure knocked down all the build-up the band is so great at generating.

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!

 

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