MCCC played host to the legendary Country Music group Shenandoah on Oct. 22 and was rewarded with a show they won’t soon forget.
The night opened with Monroe native Cory Young, a former Luna Pier volunteer fireman and cancer survivor turned music performer.
Cory was well received by a small but enthusiastic group of former co-workers at the show, and he acknowledged their presence as any returning hometown performer would. Musically, his acoustic performance was a rum-soaked fusion of Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney’s styles.
Cory’s writing and music seems to center on Florida, boating, and a non-stop celebration of inebriation.
There was a short break between sets, and people mulled quietly about as guitar technicians set the stage for the featured act. A quiet anticipation filled the air and all conversation ceased as the lights went down.
A pre-recorded tape began to play the voice of Ronald Reagan, followed by snippets of mid-1980’s and early 1990’s sound bites. Finally, the lights came on, and there they were. The CMA award-winning super group Shenandoah.
From the opening notes of the hit, “Next to You, Next to Me,” it was obvious the audience was in for a very special night.
Lead singer Marty Raybon was in fine form. His voice had not changed in thirty years and the band delivered its unique, powerful, driving brand of country music.
The band has generated a powerful catalog over the last thirty years, and played them all. These are experienced musicians who know how to bring excitement to a live show as only seasoned professionals can.
Raybon proved to be a showman of the highest order. He told stories between songs and worked the crowd. His style is to make everyone feel as if he was singing just for them.
In addition to playing megahits like “Two Dozen Roses” and “Sunday in the South,” the band introduced new songs from its upcoming album and then took some unexpected detours.
Noting the April passing of song-writing legend Merle Haggard, the band seamlessly transitioned into a medley of his hits that had everyone singing the familiar classics like “Silver Wings,” “Working Man Blues,” “Okie From Muskogee,” and others.
Based on the reaction of the audience, they were deep into friendly territory.
“2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ showed us the truest meaning of love and compassion by dying for us all,” Raybon said, “and that’s what this song is all about.”
The crowd cheered enthusiastically as the band played “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart.”
Shenandoah won a Grammy with Allison Krauss for this 1991 hit.
Giving thanks to God is not new for Shenandoah. Their writing has always retained a Gospel flair, so it is no surprise the band’s latest effort, “Good News Travels Fast,” is completely Southern Gospel. The album received a nomination for The Dove Award’s 2016 album of the year.
This led into the next segment, two Christmas songs, beautifully executed in Shenandoah style. Although it’s a bit early for Christmas music, the mini-set was well received.
Next, Raybon noted the band formed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the “hit-making capital of the world in the 1960s and 1970s,” and the group dove into another medley.
This time, it was an ode to the famous studio. Music from Otis Redding, to The Rolling Stones, to Aretha Franklin and Bob Seger was effortlessly churned out, putting the deft musical diversity of this band on full display.
Finally, the band bowed to the audience, and exited the stage. Of course, no one left their seats, and quickly, Shenandoah returned for the obligatory encore. This was a rousing performance of the band’s biggest hit, “Church on the Cumberland Road.”
Following the show, Marty came out to meet with the audience in the lobby. He spent the better part of two hours conversing, singing songs, taking photographs with fans, and signing merchandise. No one left disappointed.
The crowd departed with a genuine warm feeling. The conversation was upbeat and happy and laughter filled the air. Marty and Shenandoah had truly touched their hearts and provided a welcome buffer, if for a short time, from all the turmoil and chaos in the world.
It was truly a night Shenandoah’s fans will not soon forget.