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Ryman Auditorium, April 18, 2008
The Ryman Auditorium
I went on a backstage tour of the Ryman the day before the concert. The structure was built in the 1890s as a tabernacle for a traveling preacher. The seats are the original church pews. The balcony was added later in the decade to accommodate the large number of Civil War veterans who met there for reunions. The balcony was named "The Confederate Gallery."
The Grand Ole Opry radio show moved to the Ryman in the 1940s, and remained there until moving to the Opryland theme park in the 1970s. The Opry still uses the Ryman for its performances four months of the year.
A major renovation took place in 1993 and 1994. A new lobby was constructed at the rear of the building, and consequently the back of the Ryman is now the front. To preserve the historical integrity of the building, the doors leading from the lobby to the balcony were cut through the original second-floor windows.
Believe it or not, the Ryman did not have any dressing rooms until this renovation took place! The artists dressed in the bathroom and did their vocal warmups in the alley! There are now six dressing rooms, each named after an Opry star. On my tour, we saw the Carter-Cash room and the Minnie Pearl room, among others.
We also had the chance to stand in the wings, where many an Opry star experienced the thrill of seeing their dreams come true.
Poster in the elevator
What a show! Justin sounded absolutely wonderful. Unlike my show last year, which was so loud my ears were ringing, the volume at this show was perfect. The crowd was very enthusiastic.....a standing ovation for every song, and long applause that twice turned into rhythmic stomping and clapping. Justin appeared to be relaxed and in a good mood, and he smiled a lot.
He got chatty once, when he did his "speech" near the beginning. He mentioned the history of the Ryman, and how cool it was to see the old photos in the dressing rooms. Then he laughed and said he didn't know who most of the people in the photos were, but they were cool anyways! He brought up the fact that the Everly Brothers were discovered at the Ryman, which meant a lot to him because the Everlys were one of the first American pop groups to get exposure in the UK, and they introduced kids his age to rock music. Then he did a little rambling about the carpeting in the dressing rooms.
Justin's hair is getting quite long, and he kept tossing it back out of his eyes. When he bounced in time to the music, his hair bounced, too! During the long standing ovation for Nights In White Satin, he kept bowing, and his hair kept flopping down, and then he stood up and his hair fell back into place ....over and over and over again!
Justin has been performing Voices In The Sky at some shows this tour, but they didn't do it tonight. Another change was the backdrop....there weren't any slideshows or videos, just a starry background that changed color. It was very pretty. I think I prefer it to the slides, actually.
John's the flirt of the band, and he sure lived up to that name tonight! At one point, he was smiling at me, "playing to me" and wiggling his hips. What a ham! I waved once to Paul and he waved back. I got a smile out of Justin after The Other Side Of Life when I was waving my glowstick over my head and cheering. He seems to really like it when the audience does the glowstick thing. After the song, he was pointing to those of us in the front who had them, as if to say "thanks."
In what has become somewhat of a tradition, Justin stopped during Question to let us sing. December Snow was especially nice. The starry background turned blue, and Justin and Paul had their lovely guitar/keyboard interplay in the middle. We all clapped for Paul and he smiled and nodded in response. Justin really gives everything he's got when he sings Nights In White Satin. Watching him perform that song is simply mesmerizing.
After the concert, I stood outside the stage door (in the rain) to wait for the band. I spent some time talking to a guy who got Justin's guitar pick. He showed it to me and let me hold it. After awhile, the band came out and got into their bus. The security guy said they wouldn't sign anything, but Justin was so nice... he stopped briefly to sign about three or four things for people.
I spent some time outside the stage door Friday afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the band and maybe get some autographs. I took along my Days of Future Passed Deluxe SACD, which already has Tony Clarke's and Derek Varnals' autographs on it. My camera was in my bag. My goal this time around was to get autographs, not pictures.
One other couple was waiting with me. At 4:45, a security guy came outside and stood by the stage door. We learned from him that Justin was arriving alone, ahead of the band. A few minutes later, Justin was driven up in a car. As he got out, the three of us made our move! Justin was so nice. His response to our requests for pictures and autographs was always, "Sure!" When the other couple asked if they could have a picture with him, I hurriedly dug my camera out of my bag. I couldn't miss this opportunity!
I was nervous, and yes it was thrilling! But most of all, I couldn't believe that it had happened, just like I planned.
The rest of the band arrived in a bus at 6:15, but security hustled them past us without acknowledging us. I was disappointed, but only a little.
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