Story by Jemille Williams Photos by Chuck Holloway
Sweet Home Alpharetta
After a picture perfect day Sunday, the bottom fell out a couple of hours before showtime at Verizon Amphithetre and made prospects dim for a comfortable evening for Alabama‘s All American Tour. There were still a good many empty seats when Will Hoge took the stage, but the sky stayed clear and everyone enjoyed a beautiful spring evening. It was cool enough not to need the huge overhead fans.
Hoge is typical of so many artists who have a great sound, but just somehow have missed that big break that propels them to the big time. With any luck, his exposure to legions of Alabama fans will give him the bump he needs. His group served up a heapin’ helpin’ of Southern-fried rock ‘n’ roll sounding a good bit like Tom Petty with top notes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, especially on Craig Pair’s piano work in “Suitcase Full of Empty Dreams” and the Oak Ridge Boys, when they sang an almost a cappella “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment.
The band definitely had a good beat that you could two-step to it. The audience grew more respectful and less chatty as the show wore on, as they were clapping along on the last couple of songs. The enthusiastic drummer Ron Killen, was similar to Coldplay’s Will Champion in both technique and appearance. Jessie Isley’s bluesy guitar work was reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan on the moving “When I Get My Wings.” Of special note was the rousing cheer when he introduced bass guitarist from Snellville.
Alabama Superstars Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook took the stage to a roar from the crowd. Owne had the faithful well in hand, at times getting them to wave their hands in the air like they just didn’t care and occasionally inciting couples to slow dance in the roomy rows at Verizon.
Alabama opened with a spirited “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (Ya Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)” with Cook sawing away on a neon green instrument that looked more Stratocaster than Stradivarius. On many songs they fielded six guitars!
Alabama made mention of their latest album, Alabama & Friends, released last year and even took a tweet request of “Old Flame,” and dedicated a song to a couple, who like the group itself, was celebrating a 40th anniversary.
Alabama gave no less than four encores, rounding out their two-hour performance, which was full of their greatest hits. After a moving rendition of “Angels Among Us” Owen ended the show shouting “Peace and Love!”
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