The legendary artist honored her family and musical history during the concert
Crystal Gayle performed an enchanting 21 song set deep in the heart of Virginia at the Beacon Theatre in Hopewell, VA on Thursday night (Nov 17th).
The set began with a mash-up of “Tennessee Waltz” and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” from her six-piece backing band before Gayle took the stage, regaled in red and black rhinestones with signature floor length hair flowing along behind her. She opened with “Everybody’s Reaching Out for Someone” before going right into the upbeat “Never Ending Song of Love.” She informed the audience later in the evening that the legendary producer Allen Reynolds produced the song, and a young Garth Brooks was honored to provide backing vocals for the track in 1990.
Gayle showed off her pristine voice. It is ageless, like a jewel on display for all to see. There’s a distinctive, almost mid-Atlantic sound to her airy phrasing at times, which is truly iconic and unmistakable. Her tone has not changed in the five-plus decades Gayle has been one of the most recognizable artists in music.
Fans of Crystal Gayle know that her music is country at its heart, but teeters between adult contemporary and soft-pop. Gayle shot to fame as the first female crossover artist to sell one million units of the single, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” (This was another Reynolds-produced hit.) On this night in Virginia, as the number was played third-to-last, time stopped and the theater was transported to an era when music, lyric, and emotion were perfectly in sync.
Throughout the night, Gayle featured her band. There was a rousing rendition of “Orange Blossom Special” from her fiddler, and a regal drum solo on a quick instrumental “Little Drummer Boy.” But perhaps the highlight was seeing another sibling legend from the family of Gayle and her recently-departed sister, Loretta Lynn. That third sister is Peggy Sue Wright, joined on backing vocals.
Throughout the show, Wright barbed with her sibling, telling corny jokes and stories from back home. But the most special moment — and perhaps the highlight of the night, with no disrespect to Ms. Gayle herself — was Ms. Wright singing the song that she wrote, which gave her elder sister Loretta Lynn the first No. 1 hit and gold record of Lynn’s career. Wright sang “Don’t Come Home a-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” Gayle supported on background vocals. is rare to witness living, breathing country music history in such a way. The Virginia crowd recognized that and leapt to their feet.
Gayle’s voice still aches with the longing that is present in many of her songs. “I’ll Get Over You” highlights her ability to transmit grief and desire in song in a way that touches the heart. Yet, she can immediately switch gears and her smile and bright sound encourage fun on “That’s What I Like About the South.”
Gayle went full country with the mandolin driven (yet again, Reynolds’ produced) “Ready For The Times to Get Better.” She then turned it over to her bassist for a rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Big City.” Her bassist Michael toured with Ms. Lynn for 22 years, and remains part of the musical family by joining Ms. Gayle on the road.
The night full of comedy, music, and stories from an underrated yet incredibly important career ended with a thumping crowd singalong of “Rocky Top.” Virginians became Tennesseans as they sang every word at the top of their lungs.
There were other fun surprises throughout the night, and Gayle took precious time to introduce her band members. She has dates currently scheduled through February of next year. If you get the chance to see this living legend of not just country, but of all music, do it. Even if, like this reporter, you have to travel 2 and a half hours to catch the show. I promise, it will make your brown eyes well blue with tears of joy.