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Concert Review

Joe Nichols in Concert - Mescalero, NM 
Concert review by: Cheryl Harvey Hill

No one seems immune to his talent and charisma. His stage presence is so commanding that he doesn't need to resort to pyrotechnics or special visual effects to get attention, and just walking onstage resulted in a thunderous resonation of cheers and screams that nearly vibrated the roof off the building. Men, women, and children are all equally smitten with him and since this was an early concert (6 p.m.), this particular audience had an abundance of younger fans; some so young that the only way they could see over the head of the person in front of them, was to stand on their chair. As the camera panned the audience, and flashed giant pictures on the huge screens on either side of the stage, you saw children from two to twelve, a wide range of teens, women of all ages, and plenty of men too, on their feet, all enthusiastically singing along as they clapped their hands over their heads in time to the music. After the first standing ovation, which came midway through the very first song, standing was the norm.

According to Nichols, they weren't using a set list; instead, he announced they would take their cue from the audience and just "wing it." This bit of information caused a lot of song titles to be shouted out and the requests encompassed a wide variety of songs; old and new. Nichols covered one of my all-time favorites, "Misery and Gin," and he barely finished the first words of the first stanza when a huge roar of approval rolled through the venue and made it obvious that this classic song was a favorite of a lot of folks. The song was enthusiastically embraced by the audience and when he got to the line "make sweet love to me tonight", the screams from the female members in attendance was downright deafening.

He incorporated a diverse selection of songs from the traditional country archives and interspersed them with songs from his own popular albums. In between each song he talked casually about his life, the band, the songs, and exchanged friendly banter with many of the more assertive audience members. It is always abundantly clear that his sense of humor is on par with his magnificent voice. Throughout the concert security made constant sweeps through the aisles reminding everyone that you could NOT take photos or videos; cameras and cell phones were to be OFF. It was clear that enforcing this venue policy was a challenge and security was getting frustrated. Nichols, revealed his mischievous side, and lightened the mood considerably, when during the musical bridge of the melancholy "I'll Wait For You," he encouraged folks to get into the music, "come on now, get those arms up in the air," he urged, and the audience quickly obliged. As a somber audience swayed in unison to the soft strains of the music, Nichols yelled out, "Now, let's see all those cell phones!" Without hesitation, in perfect unison, hundreds of cell phones were boldly revealed, and judging by the amount of light given off by all of those open cell phones, half the audience was sending a clip to someone in their “circle of friends.”

It has been five years since I had seen him in concert and there were noticeable changes. He has delightfully matured and is more handsome than ever. However, the most obvious change I noticed was in his voice. His range is much broader and his wonderful baritone glides up, close to tenor, and then down towards bass, and back again; flawlessly.

Many years ago, lamenting the imminent loss of all the other renowned singers in his genre, the legendary George Jones pondered in a classic country tune, "Who's Gonna' Fill Their Shoes?" Then only last week, at a concert in the Mother Church of country music (the Ryman Auditorium), Jones answered his own question by introducing Nichols as "the future of traditional country music." You most assuredly aren't going to get any argument from me regarding that observation and I'm equally certain that the few thousand or so screaming fans who were in the audience at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino this past weekend in Mescalero, New Mexico, and countless music aficionados around the world, positively agree.

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