Alison Krauss–Live at Chastain Amphitheater

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I receive many emails from promoters and venues regarding upcoming concerts.  I saw one that mentioned Alison Krauss at Chastain and immediately plotted my entertainment plans.  The only problem was that my wife isn’t really a country or bluegrass fan, but the opener, David Gray, was a seasonal favorite back in 1999 when “Babylon” held sway on the radio.  I also knew that my stepmom was a fan, so invited her and my dad; a foursome was made.  Now committed, I joined her website fan club to get a presale code, which paid off.  Good seats! 

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Fast forward. 

David Gray has a good interactive manner and a strong voice.  Despite a limited vocal range, he bleeds earnestness which is important as his songs generally center around relationship challenges which call for just that.  I had two problems, though. 

1) He has a consistent trait for taking a good 4:00 song and extending it with the refrain until the repetition dulls the senses.  Given Chastain’s aggravating but understandable 11:00 p.m. sound curfew on concerts due to its location in a residential area, after about the fifth or sixth song, I’m thinking, “Play ‘Babylon’ and exit the stage, please.”  Not so.  After playing unaccompanied for a while, he brought in several of Krauss’ band members to support him, which helped, though I was wondering why Krauss would share a pretty good light show on the opening act.  That’s typically not done.

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2)  That’s because he wasn’t an opening act.  It was a co-headlining tour, I find after the event.  This was not obvious in the marketing or evidenced by the slowly filling crowd during his set.  Had I known that I would get 1:15 of Krauss, I would have passed on the (not inexpensive) show. 

It is what is, right?  For one, it was a perfect, early fall night for watching an outdoor concert. 

So, David Gray.  Credit to him, he played like everyone was there to see him.  He’s an engaging performer, and on a song by song basis, he was pretty good. The unaccompanied songs featured his voice well, which does not seem to have suffered in strength over the years.  Still, one song like that is a treat, but by the time his band joined in (not Krauss’ obviously), the crowd was more than ready for a little pulse to his music.  He played pretty heavily from White Ladder, but most regrettably he included “Say Hello Wave Goodbye.”  At somewhere beyond halfway of his set, we agreed in post-concert thoughts that we were hoping that his long goodbye was his final song.   Not to belabor the point, but even on the record it’s 9:04 long.   In any case, “Sail Away,” “Please Forgive Me,” and “Babylon” were excellent.

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Through the intermission, the stage was changed over, including his stage lights (which were superior to Krauss’ minimalist presentation).  The house music, by the way, featured some old Herb Alpert tunes, which didn’t fit the music of either artist, but was kind of fun.  Amazon has a CD on its way… In any case, it was clear that we would not be getting the duration of Alison Kraus for which we hoped – but we didn’t know that we weren’t getting the show we had hoped for either.

Krauss managed to squeeze in a lot of songs.  Part of this is is due to the brevity of her songs.  The other is that she included a good number of traditional/spiritual songs which in addition to being brief were almost presented as a suite. 

Another disappointing aspect was that this is a tour without Union Station, her killer bluegrass band.  Her touring band shared two of those musicians, but the direction of this tour is more towards traditional songs, which would be obvious to fans who appreciate the Cox Family, who accompany her on this tour and were a large part of her early career.   Sadly, the show was absent much in the way of bluegrass instrumentalism or Krauss’ fiddle playing. 

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The show featured five songs from her new album, Windy City, which fit pretty well with her other latter era songs.  Krauss has a special voice, and every nuance could be heard clearly, but this is especially appreciated on unhurried songs that allow space for her voice to soar.  The sound system was crystal clear for both artists, but songs like “The Lucky One,” “I Never Cared for You,” “Stay,” and “Ghost in This House,” the last literally causing goosebumps, indicate that her recording engineers can just hit “record” and leave it alone.

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The concert ended with some irony, as clearly the fans were caught short on the co-billing, and her last song was cut short when the house staff pulled the plug. 

Hey, Chastain.  Maybe start shows a little earlier?

(Likely) Set list:

  • River in the Rain
  • I Never Cared for You
  • Stay
  • Forget About It
  • Baby, Now That I’ve Found You
  • Broadway
  • Ghost in This House
  • The Lucky One
  • Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
  • It’s Goodbye and So Long to You
  • Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
  • Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby
  • I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)
  • Down to the River to Pray
  • Restless
  • Gentle on My Mind
  • Losing You
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues
  • When God Dips His Pen of Love in My Heart
  • Walk Over God’s Heaven
  • When I’ve Done the Best I Can, I Want My Crown
  • When You Say Nothing at All
  • A Living Prayer





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