November 7, 2021
If you're of a certain age, you'll remember the ubiquity of Alabama on the charts in the '70s and '80s. The band's radio friendly mix of country, pop, gospel, and bluegrass accounted for 33 #1 Billboard "Hot Country" singles, 75 million albums sold, and a slew of CMAs and Grammys. The band rode this tide (Alabama joke) of accolades into the Toyota Center last night for their 50th anniversary tour.
Founding members (and cousins) Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry returned for the semicentennial (or Golden Jubilee) along with a sizable band. Guitarist and fiddle player Jeff Cook was diagnosed with Parkinson's a few years back and no longer tours, though Owen and Gentry recognized him with "Jeff's Song (I Will Remember You)" during the show.
Last night's set was long on familiar cuts ("Love in the First Degree," "Mountain Music," "The Closer You Get"), with local fave "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" brought out early, to the delight of a rather sparse crowd. In fairness, if you're gonna play on a Sunday night to a bunch of septuagenarians, you're gonna have a fair number of no-shows.
Those who did attend were treated to a laid-back run through of the band's impressive repertoire, one that offered ample opportunity for singalongs, since just about every song had a reprise that encouraged the crowd to call back the chorus a few times.
Still, as nostalgia exercises go, Alabama's 50th anniversary tour delivered. Like another band with cheesy video accompaniment (KISS), the boys from Fort Payne already embarked on one farewell tour (back in 2004), but apparently thought better of it. Their catalog is deep enough they can drop crowd pleasers like "Feels So Right" and "Dixieland Delight" without breaking much of a sweat.
And maybe a full-throated condemnation was a bit much to expect from a band that still sings how "old times there are not forgotten" ("High Cotton") or hell — about "Dixieland" — but at least Owen shut down the handful of assholes who started chanting "Let's go, Brandon." Between that and the band's support for St. Jude's Hospital, they're easy to root for.
At 50, Alabama has been around long enough (though technically they were "Wildcountry" until 1977) that they don't have anything to prove. So it was nice that they delivered such an appreciative and extensive show. If this is the last time we get to see them, at least it was memorable.
The Crowd: Some of the greatest combovers I've ever seen.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Owen's voice is still really strong." "I'm just impressed his mother's still alive."
Random Notebook Dump: "I need a haircut. My hair's starting to look like Randy Owen's."
Pass It on Down
Can't Keep a Good Man Down
If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)
The Closer You Get
Sad Lookin' Moon
It's All Right
Give Me One More Shot
Dixieland Delight / Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)
Angels Among Us
Forever's As Far As I'll Go
Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)
Jeff's Song (I Will Remember You)
Love in the First Degree
Feels So Right
Lady Down on Love
Turn It Off
As Long As There's Love
I'm In a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)