Gary Allan led an exciting night of new music and memorable hits Wednesday (April 17) at
Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
While still highlighting his go-to themes of broken hearts and regretful decisions, the
California native kept the mood of his performance light by calling out friends in the audience and inviting his local co-writers
to sing backup vocals on their songs.
“It feels good to play in Nashville,” said Allan from the stage. “I don’t do
The last time he performed in Music City was during the 2012 Country Throwdown tour, although it may not
stick out in Allan’s mind since the performance had to be cut short due to rain. Ironically, it was just as Allan’s single
“Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” was beginning
its march up the charts.
Safely indoors at the Ryman, Allan played no less than seven new tracks from his recent No.
1 album Set You Free, all of which were received enthusiastically.
Kicking things off from a tall riser at the
back of the Ryman’s historic stage, Allan launched his band into one of those moody new songs, “Tough Goodbye.” Then, pacing
the floor with a mixed aura of pained moxie and easygoing charm, the singer delivered “A Feeling Like That” and “Right Where
I Need to Be.”
Wearing a pair of ripped black jeans and a black T shirt — and despite a huge video screen and bank
of strobe lights behind him — the singer kept the focus on his songs and his eight-piece band.
“I wrote this next
song with Sarah Buxton and Odie Blackmon, and it’s my new single,”
Allan said in introducing “Pieces.” The midtempo number reflects on all the small moments, good and bad, that eventually make
a person who they are meant to be.
Then, going back to the beginning of his career, Allan jumped into “Her Man,” his
first single from 1995 which he said most people don’t realize was previously recorded by Waylon
“It Ain’t the Whiskey,” another new one from Set You Free, described in soaring detail a man struggling
with alcohol, cigarettes and “the stuff I smoke,” all the while knowing that deep down it was a lost love’s memory that was
killing him. Allan took a short but expressive guitar solo in this song, an added bonus that he would sprinkle in throughout
the rest of the night.
The first guest singer turned out to be Matt Warren, co-writer of “Learning
How to Bend” as well as “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain).” He was followed by the laid-back country of “Smoke
Rings in the Dark” and a ’60s Beach Boys feel on “Runaway.”
Another one of Allan’s new songs also worked with a
beach-going main character. This time, it’s a guy who’s trying to drown the memory of a failed relationship with sea water
and frosty beer. However, “Sand in My Soul” wasn’t quite as cheerful as most tropical country fare and included a classical
Later on, Allan picked his producer out of the crowd, calling for the embarrassed Mark Wright to stand
up and take a bow. He opted for a wave instead as Allan remarked, “This is the guy I’ve made every single record with.”
his voice becoming warmer, sweeter and fuller as the night went on, Allan then asked his band to leave the stage so he could
really let his smoky vocals shine.
Singing with just an acoustic guitar and his electric guitar player at his side,
Allan performed the travelling musician’s lament “Showman’s Life” by Jesse Winchester.
“I hear George
Strait is doing this song in his set,” said Allan as a way of justifying the oddball song choice.
He kept the intimate
portion of his show going by inviting songwriter Rachel Proctor to help sing on her song “You Without Me.” This time featuring
just a piano and an acoustic guitar, the song from Set You Free pulls a bait-and-switch as the narrator delivers his
payoff lyric, “And it’s so damn hard to believe, that’s you without me.”
He moved on through fan favorites like “Best I Ever Had,” “Nothin’ On but the Radio” and “She’s So California,”
then brought out songwriting star Hillary Lindsey for her co-written No. 1 “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain).”
do a whole lot of angry songs,” said Allan next. “But damn it, I should start!”
“Bones” was the new song he was referring
to, a Keith Gattis-written blood pumper that finds Allan digging a grave and promising that he’s got a few bones to pick with
“Yeah, maybe you best just leave this town.
Yeah, probably before the sun goes down.
‘Cause the devil
already knows my name,
And you can ask him yourself when I see you again!”
Judging by the audience’s rousing response,
Allan would do well to keep that one in his set and maybe consider it as a single for country radio.
newcomer Kristen Kelly opened the evening, performing a short set that included her
snappy single “Ex Old Man” before Allan took the stage.