On one of the few sunny Saturday’s since New Year’s Day, I decided to take a Road Trip to Lake Jackson, TX. Not really a tourist hot spot, however this weekend one of country music’s top hit makers was performing at The Clarion at Brazosport College. Collin Raye has a track record of five certified platinum albums, 24 top ten hits, and 15 number one hits. Saturday night’s performance was billed as an acoustic performance with two acoustic guitars (Collin being one) and piano accompaniment. Raye is known for his rocking, upbeat and energetic performances, so an acoustic performance seems a little “out of character”. So it would seem.
The Clarion is a 600 seat concert hall built to accommodate acoustical performances. The “acoustics” proved to be quite impressive on Saturday evening. Raye emerged on a darkened stage to begin the evening with one of his top ten singles from 1999 “Anyone Else”. He continued on with well known hits that included “Little Rock”, “I Can Still Feel You”, and “Little Red Rodeo”.
Raye is very personable and quickly established a rapport with his audience. He mentioned that he likes performing in the smaller venues because it is more intimate and he can make eye contact with almost everyone in the audience. Raye stressed that the large stadium shows are exciting due to the sheer number in the crowds, but the smaller venues made him feel like he was performing with friends in their living rooms. Throughout the evening he made everyone feel right at home.
Raye’s voice continues to be as strong and as powerful today as when he first emerged on the country music scene in 1991. With the release of his latest CD “Never Going Back”, Raye continues to produce quality and versatility in his music. With only his guitar and piano accompaniment, Raye performed two selections from the CD, “The Only Jesus” and the latest single release “She’s With Me”. “She’s With Me” is a touching tribute to his granddaughter who has a regressive neurological condition that could have only been written by a loving grandfather.
Mid-way through the evening, Raye changed the tempo and the direction of the show. Raye throughout his career has played cover songs from other artists that he has admired or desired to pay tribute to. Tonight was no different but with a daring selection of classics that expanded several decades and genres of music. A daunting challenge for any artist with a full band but certainly would be considered an amazing achievement for an acoustic set.
Raye began with the timeless Simon and Garfunkel classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. He introduced the song by stating that “it was one of those you are afraid to do because you don’t want to mess it up”. No worries. Raye did a beautiful rendition of this classic and was rewarded with applauses and cheers from the crowd. He followed with Kris Kistofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down”.
Raye next faced the challenge of “Rockin’ It Up” with “Do It Again” by Steely Dan with two acoustic guitars and one grand piano. Rockin’ It Up they did with the amazing guitar accompaniment of Chris Raspante and outstanding piano accompaniment of Melanie Shore. The electronic embellishment and the beat of a drum were never missed. The crowd was engaged and amazed and erupted with applauses of appreciation several times throughout the song.
Raye ended the set of timeless classics with a rendition of Hank Williams Sr’s “Ramblin’ Man” and Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”.
Raye then returned to the hits that gave him his multi-platinum status. He rocked out again with “That’s My Story” which he explained that he continues to perform “true” to the style of the original recording and sings it in the original key even though he is “not as young as he use to be”. Raye explained to the audience that Conway Twitty gave him sage advice at one time to never change the key of your songs because your audience will appreciate you more. Good advice.
Raye concluded the evening with his first Number One hit “Love, Me” which the audience sang along to throughout. He returned for an encore with “In This Life”.
An acoustic performance for Collin Raye was definitely NOT out of character. The audience enjoyed an evening of true (not enhanced) music performed by three exceptionally talented artists. The artists were rewarded with a standing ovation, applause and cheers.
For contact and tour information, www.collinraye.com.