Vince Gill’s return to the legendary Los Angeles club, the Troubadour, might not be as celebrated as James Taylor and Carole King’s reunion show back in 2007, which spawned a DVD and subsequent tour. However, it did make for a memorable evening.
Walking out on stage with his 8-piece band, Gill – dressed in a plaid shirt, jeans, short hair and black-rimmed glasses – looked more like the guy next store rather than a Nashville superstar. Stating that it had been 35 years since he last played the Troubadour, Gill recounted how he was new-to-town, not yet 20 and being thrilled to be in the band opening for Guy Clark – and getting to meet Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell too.
This reflective mood also carried over to his setlist. Rather than focus on his fine new album, Guitar Slinger, Gill took the opportunity to touch upon songs from throughout his career. He started off with a 30-year-old tune, “Never Alone” and followed it up with a “newer one,” the 20-year-old “Trying To Get Over You.”
Taking advantage of this rare small club engagement, Gill put on a relaxed, casual performance that had plenty of room for corny jokes and side-stories. He talked about his admiration for Merle Haggard before performing “Real Mean Bottle,” a tune he wrote for Hag. He asserted that “cheatin’ songs are what made country music great” and bemoaned the lack of them today and then launched into “Pocket Full of Gold.” Before playing “High Lonesome Sound,” Gill recalled his dream of trying to make it as a bluegrass banjo player, but then “I had the good taste to stop playing one.” Another special moment came when he stopped the show to introduce a man in the audience who proposed to his girlfriend (she said, yes, by the way); he then played his 1991 tune “Look At Us.”
It actually took him about 45 minutes before he debuted anything from his new album. He started with “The Old Lucky Diamond Motel,” a colorful tune, about a Route 66 roadside motel that was one of several times Gill spoke of his Oklahoma upbringing. He then tackled another new tune, the poignant “Bread and Water.” Gill said this one was inspired by his late brother who struggled through life followed a debilitating motorcycle accident.
Later in the set, Gill touched on both his family and his Oklahoma roots when he talked about his dad and did what undoubtedly was a spot-on impression of him that was both humorous and loving. He then performed “It’s Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long,” a song that Gill said his dad suggested to him but he only got around to write after his father’s death with Rodney Crowell (that appeared on the Notorious Cherry Bombs album.
Throughout the night, Gill proclaimed how much fun he was having, which was true for the audience too. Even someone not particularly well-versed in Gill as I will admit to be came away impressed with the breadth of his song catalog, the ease of his virtuosity and this endearing charm. Maybe someone should have recorded this for a DVD.