Once the poster boy for mainstream country music, Vince Gill now plays music for his audience and himself. This performance marked Gill's first visit to Dublin since he played the Point Theatre back in 199? Times have changed and one would only have to compare Brad Paisley and band playing the same venue last year to see how much they have changed. Paisley is the current model and his loud, unsubtle version of country music undoubtedly has its devotees, but few here tonight would have swapped the two nights.
Gill and band are built for comfort not for speed. It was loose casual clothes all the way with all but Vince and second guitarist Tom Britt sitting on stools which did not effect the music one iota. These players deserve individual mention in their own right as they excellently served the songs played on the night. They include long-time band members Pete Wasner on keyboards, the aformentiioned Tom Britt on guitar, David Hungate on bass with Tommy White on steel and Bill Thomas on drums and harmony vocals. These guys do exactly what they are supposed to and solo superbly when the song calls for it. They easily accommodated elements of blues, jazz, folk and rock into the countrified centre of the set.
But front and centre is Vince Gill, a consummate singer, songwriter and guitarist. He's also a fine raconteur with a line in self-deprecating humour that took in everything from his weight, stating that he will be as big as Elvis if he goes in one more buffet line, to the fact that he has made a career "singing like a woman" and the fortunes of fame. He related being in a mall and hearing two women passing, one of whom said ‘That that looks like Vince Gill.’ to which the other replied "He wishes". He also talked about his father, whom he described as being a combination of Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and General Patton, a real old school, non touchy-feely father whom he both feared and admired. Later in life his father came to him with a song idea which many years later Vince turned into a song with Rodney Crowell and recorded as the Notorious Cherry Bombs as It's Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night that Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long. He realised later the song was about his mother and father's relationship. The song went down well with the audience and was balanced with the more poignant songs in the set which included Bread and Water, a song about his late brother.
Between those two emotional points in the two and three quarter hours set, Gill covered many of his classic songs. Never Alone, Never Knew Lonely, Liza Jane, Pocket Full Of Gold and I Still Believe In You were among a set that ran to 28 songs including two encores and an acoustic set where it was just Gill alone holding the packed house in the palm of his hand. The whole show was a reaffirmation that, although country music has either moved to popper fringes or further underground, it should be about the telling of stories and Vince Gill did this both in with his between song talk and with the songs themselves.
There may be a strong amount of sentiment in Gill's songs, but it rings true and serves as a reminder of what country is losing. There is still an audience for the real thing and Vince Gill and his band are exactly that. Gill is a consummate player and singer who is very much at ease with himself, his music and his audience. So much so that I think we all felt "I still believe in you".
Review by Stephen Rapid. Photograph by Ronnie Norton