Well, Happy Second Thanksgiving everybody! Yes, being Canadian means that, for me, Thanksgiving was a month ago, but I’ll be in The United States for the Thanksgiving weekend and I wanted to take part in the festivities for a second time! Both Jasmine Rochelle and I have chosen one of the many concerts we’ve attended this year to laud as the one we are most thankful for and it seems that us girls here at Lula 1892 are both very thankful for Conway Twitty. Make sure to check out her concert review of Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter and Conway Twitty’s grandson and the show they put on together across North America in tribute to their grandparents. Tayla Lynn, Tre Twitty, if you’re reading this, add a show in the Edmonton area and I’ll come see you!
This year I’ve been lucky enough to see many of my favourites perform in my area from Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark, to Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye, Aaron Tippin, and Tanya Tucker. And, along with some brand new artists—Reverie Lane, I’m looking at you lovely ladies—I’ve also had the opportunity to travel and see a couple of my other favourite artists perform as well. My trip to Las Vegas to see Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn with one of my best friends will be a vacation I’ll never forget. So, how do you pick just one?
I’m endlessly thankful for every show I’ve had the opportunity to attend, but there’s one this year that stands out: One Night With Conway Featuring Gil Grand. A lot of things happened during and after this concert that made it so much more than just a concert for me. This wild world of the country music industry is very new to me and most days I still can’t believe I’m actually a part of it. The reason I’m most thankful for this show, though, is because it was the first time I’ve really felt like I belonged.
One Night With Conway featuring Gil Grand wasn’t my first rodeo when it came to reviewing concerts. It was my second. As I sat there furiously scribbling down every detail of the show in the glow of the stage lights, I looked around at the people around me—at their faces. Every single person in the venue was either singing along or smiling, and I wanted to make sure I really captured that. That’s one of the things I really adore about the Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove, Alberta. Only seating around 320 people, the theater is small and delightfully intimate no matter what show you attend or which artist is performing. The theater staff is even beginning to recognize me by name, sending a warm smile and a wave my way when I walk in the door.
“I better see you singing all the words!” Is a phrase I hear quite often from the ladies there.
I brought my mother and my aunt along to experience this one with me because, not only do all three of us adore the country crooner the show was in tribute to, each of us also adores the man playing tribute to the legend—Gil Grand. There are currently a number of Canadian country artists on the circuit playing tribute shows to our favourite legends and I applaud them for that! We’ve got a lot of talent up here, and it’s incredible to see them using it to keep the memories of the artists no longer with us alive.
This show in particular had me completely bewildered. Grand had played the part so authentically that I had to blink myself back into reality several times throughout the night because of the stark likeness to Twitty he embodied in costume, stage presence, and in vocal similarity. In his black satin suit, dress shoes, and slicked back hair that, at times, right before my eyes it was suddenly Conway Twitty standing before me and not the Canadian country artist I’d grown up listening to on the radio. As I didn’t come around until ‘96, Grand’s performance completely satisfied my wish to have seen Twitty himself perform live.
Grand crooned out 25 of Twitty’s greatest hits from my personal favourite, “Tight Fittin’ Jeans,” to “I’d Love To Lay You Down,” to “It’s Only Make Believe” and everything in between over the course of two hours. What I found to be the most tender moment of the show included some audience participation. He asked the audience for someone to share the stage with him for a touching rendition of “Don’t Cry Joni.” After some not so gentle encouragement from her friends, the woman, who’s name, coincidentally, was Joni, softly sang along with him just loud enough for the audience to hear. Before the encore, Grand played “Famous First Words” the song he’s most known for, and the song my mother, aunt, and I hoped he’d include in the set.
At the end of the show he unexpectedly performed an original—just him and his acoustic, under the light of a single spotlight. It’s a song very near and dear to his heart that he had written to his son-in-law for his daughter’s wedding called “She’ll Always Be Mine.” It’s always incredible to witness such a raw moment and speaks volumes to him as an artist.
The evening was absolutely wonderful, the music even had the theater staff dancing in the wings. Now, the crowd weren’t the only ones having a good time, you could see it in the band as well, and I knew once I’d talked to them all after the show that it was genuine. I didn’t come to this concert just for the talented singer and Twitty’s songs, I was also there to see a dear friend of mine perform in the band. Mark Whitehead, a two time Canadian Country Music Association nominee, was Grand’s talented steel, fiddle, and acoustic guitar player for the night. The man does it all and he does it very well. Whitehead has played with Tayla Lynn and Tre Twitty for a couple of their Canadian shows this year, with Jess Lee for The Story of the Hag featuring Jess Lee tribute show, and with Duane Steele for The Legend of George Jones show. I’ll be reviewing the combined Jess Lee and Duane Steele show in late January, and I’ll be sitting down with Whitehead himself in December to get his story, so keep an eye out for both posts!
Talking to Grand, his band, hearing their stories, and seeing how proud of their lives as musicians they are makes my job feel so worth it because I get to share these stories with all of you. Gil Grand will be taking One Night With Conway into the new year. You can find the dates and venues closest to you on his website or Facebook page.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!