Sawyer Brown, Phil Stacey, Rissi Palmer, Carolyn Dawn
Johnson and Chris Young in Hoffman Estates, IL
By: Brianna Nightingale, CSO Staff Journalist
If there was a “Top 10” list of things to do during a
lifetime, “see Sawyer Brown live” should be near the top.
One reason is that Mark Miller, the lead singer of this
animated group, has energy on stage that audiences simply
don’t see every day.
“This is our winter bash tour, and you certainly have the
weather for it,” Miller joked to his fans in Chicago.
Luckily for the crowd at the year-and-a-half-old Sears Centre
in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, Sawyer Brown performed for the
entire three hour concert.
“We’re the headliner and also the back-up band,”
Miller said. He had to repeat himself to get the rise from the
crowd that he wanted. Nonetheless, this band was certainly fit
for the job.
After Sawyer Brown’s opening song, “Six Days,” and a
great introduction by Miller, Phil Stacey dove into a two song
set with “Lookin’ Like Love” and his first single, “If
You Didn’t Love Me.”
Just moments after Stacey, another great new artist, Rissi
Palmer took the stage, showing her quick-wit and attractive,
powerful voice. The third performer to mention the cold
weather, Palmer introduced herself a little, mentioning that
it was good to be back because she went to college at DePaul.
She grinned when she said “It was cold then too.”
“Country Girl” is the second single off her self-titled
album, which she wrote almost in its entirety. Just before
singing “Hold On To Me,” Palmer said to everyone, “If
you date me, you automatically end up in a song, for better or
for worse; but mostly for worse.” Sawyer Brown was quick to
toss around a few jokes about being in one of Palmer’s songs
as long as that meant dating her first.
Carolyn Dawn Johnson, a Canada native, began her set with
“Complicated,” from her 2001 release, Room With a View.
Personally I do not understand why, but her first single off
of Love and Negotiation, the album she is currently
promoting, did not receive a lot of attention. She said she
received a lot of letters about “Taking Back My Brave” but
it “never really went anywhere.” Johnson finished up her
set with “I Don’t Want You To Go,” also from Room
With a View.
By the time he got to Chris Young, Miller had perfected the
amusing, concise introductions. Young opened his short set
with his next single, “Voices.” Another song that will be
included on his next album, “It Takes a Man” came just
before a song that reminded me of the days I spent trying to
learn songs such as “Sold” by John Michael Montgomery and
“All Things Considered” by Yankee Gray. Memorizing the
words to “21 Candles” might make your head spin, kind of
like the first time you listen to a conversation in another
language when you have only had a lesson on counting to 10.
Keeping the energy strong, Sawyer Brown became the main
focus on stage again as soon as Mr. Young was finished. “The
Boys and Me” and “The Race Is On” really got the crowd
going. Sawyer Brown did one more song before he tried to
embarrass Carolyn Dawn Johnson. He imitated the way she
approached him, asking if she could sing along on one song
because she loved it. The two of them did a beautiful job
singing “Café on the Corner” together.
Although Stacey, Palmer, Young and Johnson were finished
for the night, Sawyer Brown rocked the stage for at least
another hour, presenting covers such as Alabama’s
“Dixieland Delight” and “Life’s Been Good” by The
Hits of their own including “This Thing Called Wantin'
and Havin' It All,” “This Night Won’t Last
Forever” as well as “The Walk” were included in the set
“I took this walk you're walking now/
Boy, I've been in your shoes/
You can't hold back the hands of time/
It's just something you've got to do”
“The Walk,” which Miller wrote about losing his
grandfather, was not intended to be on a record because it was
far too personal. "My brother Frank convinced me to put
it on the album,” Miller said, although he still never
wanted it to be a single because he didn’t want to risk
having people judge it.
Sure enough, “The Walk” became a single, went to number
one and fans tell Sawyer Brown how much they love it every
Sawyer Brown finished up the evening with a standing
ovation from their fans. It’s not every day that the
headliner is also the backup band, but in this case, three
hours of Sawyer Brown was just what this working crowd needed
on a Friday night. These musicians and the other performers
truly made it worth every penny the audience paid to see them.
Carolyn Dawn Johnson
Click the photos
below to see a larger version.
Sawyer Browns' Mark Miller
Carolyn Dawn Johnson