The Same. No it wasn't the same set list full of the usual hits that you may have experienced at a recent Dierks Bentley concert. No. The Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville, Tennessee, with it's rich history of being the mother church complete with 60 years of legendary artists crossing it's scarred floor boards, was stronger than ever Thursday night, as Dierks presented his new "Home" CD, complete with tons of special guests, to a sold out crowd.
An unlike the normally reverent 'sit and listen' crowd, we the fans in the audience were free to stand up and sing along to every song. Not only were we treated to most of the songs from the new album, but old favorites and hits like "Every Mile A Memory," "Free and Easy," "Feel That Fire," "Sideways," "How Am I Doin'?" and a "Your Cheatin' Heart" intro to "Lot Of Leavin' Left To Do"--where Tim Sergent's steel guitar never sounded sweeter. "Trying To Stop Your Leaving" was played with a new acoustic guitar vs. the normal red, electric guitar.
DB Congress (fan club members) from 14 states (FL, NC, TN, WI, IN, MS, DE, AL, MO, KY, CA, GA, PA, & MI) gathered at Jack's BBQ on Broadway before the show to hug old friends, meet new ones, compete in a Dierks trivia contest, share DB goodies and most importantly take turns "alley watching" for Dierks and/or the band as they wandered in and out the back door of The Ryman.
In the 1880s, when prominent businessman and steamboat captain Thomas G. Ryman found salvation in the words of fiery evangelist Reverend Sam Jones, he vowed to build a great tabernacle that would project Rev. Jones’s voice clearly and powerfully for all to hear. The result - The Ryman Auditorium with arguably the best acoustic sound without need for a microphone.
In fact, opener Will Hoge at one point stepped stage right - far away from all the mics - motioned for his band to lower the volume of their instruments and proceeded to belt out not just one line, but the entire song - "When I Get My Wings" acoustically. Can you say Standing Ovation? His vocal was incredible. As if his voice wasn't enough to win me over as a new fan, the couple sitting next to me (Donna, DB Congress rep from Kentucky) told me about his background and how he had been in a terrible accident that crushed his lungs and broke nearly every bone, and he was in the hospital for weeks. And that he wasn't a newcomer--but on album "Number 7."
Dierks surprised the audience with a stunning segment with The Travelin McCoury's performed only with acoustics and vocals on "Fiddlin' Around," and "Draw Me A Map" from the Grammy-nominated "Up On The Ridge" album. The crowd went wild when Del McCoury stepped on stage to sing U2's "Pride (In The Name of Love)" also from "Ridge," and and old favorite of many die-hard DB fans, "Good Man Like Me," from the "Modern Day Drifter" album before wrapping it up with "Roll On, Buddy." Nobody could have wiped the smile off of Dierks' face.
Dierks and the band performed 7 of the 12 songs from the "Home" album, due out Tuesday, February 7, including "Tip It On Back", his 8th number one single--"Am I The Only One?," "5-1-5-0 (somebody call the popo)," and "Heart Of A Lonely Girl," which he dedicated to his wife Cassidy explaining she and his daughters had been sick and they knew he had to perform The Ryman in a few days so sent him off to a hotel so he wouldn't get sick. Dierks joked that here he was, getting ready to release an album called, "Home," and checking into a hotel with a backpack, guitar and a bottle of wine. Yeah, right!
After that, he admitted that wasn't much of a dedication to Cass, so he launched into his second #1 hit, "Come A Little Closer," much to the delight of the females in the audience, despite the fact that Dierks had cut off most of his curls.
The special guests kept coming. Karen Fairchild, the soulful singer from Little Big Town, joined Dierks on stage to showcase the duet on the new album, "When You Gonna Come Around." Watch:
But the star of the entire night was little 3-year-old Evie Bentley, making her debut with daddy on The Ryman stage. After the first verse of "Thinking Of You," sang by Dierks alone with his guitar and his thoughts--eyes closed, he opened his eyes and motioned for the bare-foot beauty to join him on a stool, where her own-microphone awaited. Watch this emotional moment:
Although Dierks told us that was to be the last song of the evening, the show went on, because after all, the title song, "Home" had not been sung yet, nor the one that started it all - "What Was I Thinkin?" Many of the DB Congress waved American Flags during "Home."
For the finale, Dierks brought all the performers of the evening back on stage to say good-bye, not only to the audience, but to the historic Ryman stage floor boards - which he knelt and kissed. How appropriate the last song before the restoration begins was "I Saw The Light," an acoustic/audience sing-along. Here's the DBTV episode to recap the evening:
Everyone left the stage except Dierks, who stayed for at least 10 minutes, walking along the front of the stage, signing autographs, smiling, and saying thank you to the fans!
The evening was special--altogether emotional, inspiring, historic and unforgettable. Later I heard many Dierks fans say that even though they had seen him perform countless times over the last several years, they felt the night was in their top 2-3 as far as DB experiences go.
For me, it ranks as the top Dierks experience of the decade.
DB Congress Chair