Anderson excels even without band
My wife and I had this debate during the John Anderson show at Riverwind Casino in Norman on Friday night.
Was he better by himself or with his band? It was an acoustical evening with Anderson and only one accompanist alternating between a guitar and steel guitar.
My wife loved it. She could hear all the lyrics without a high-powered band drowning them out, as often happens at some concerts we attend.
Anderson pointed out during the night that he was performing the songs as they were written, before the studio effects. “It’s beautiful,” my wife said of the acoustic performance.
I prefer the songs with the band and the way I heard them on the radio, at least on Anderson’s honky-tonk tunes. And I missed the piano and fiddle intro on “Seminole Wind,” which I consider not only one of the Florida native’s best songs, but one of the best songs in the history of country music.
I did agree, however, that ballads like the haunting “Long Black Veil” and a new Anderson song called “Celebrate” - which will be on an album to be released in the spring – were ideal for the more intimate setting.
No matter our different preferences in shows, we agreed it was all good. And judging by what I overheard from others in the Riverwind audience Friday night, they would concur. Many in attendance seemed surprised Anderson sounded so good with just an accompanist.
None of us should be surprised that Anderson could pull off such a show. At age 64, he still has one of the most distinctive and recognizable voices in country music. You immediately know it’s Anderson on the radio.
Anderson has been making music since he was 15, when he joined a rock 'n' roll band. He signed his first recording contract in 1977 and produced numerous hits in his 30-plus years in the business, including the popular “Swingin” which the Mavericks, who were at Tower Theater in Oklahoma City on Thursday night, recently covered.
Anderson told the Riverwind audience he was driving down the road when he first heard the Mavericks’ cut of Swingin’ on the radio. He said he liked the Mavericks’ version and quipped that his 1983 hit has been “kind of keeping my bread buttered a long time.”
In addition to Swingin’ the audience in Norman Friday night was treated to Anderson classics like “Black Sheep,” “Straight Tequila Night,” “Wild and Blue,” “Money in the Bank” and “Tokyo, Oklahoma,” which Anderson joked was somewhere between Ada and Anadarko.
Anderson recorded “Long Black Veil” with the late Merle Haggard and he spoke of his friendship with the country legend Friday night.
“I miss ol’ Merle Haggard,” Anderson said. “[Country] music misses Merle Haggard.”
Anderson began the 80-minute performance with “Old Chunk of Coal” and ended it with “Chicken Truck” and a standing ovation from the crowd before the encore. While Anderson was the only one singing on stage, there were several backup singers in the audience, including the slightly inebriated cowboy sitting next to my wife and I.
He wasn’t half-bad, either.