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Don Williams: Gentle Giant Back In Europe

Posted by: Petr Mecir

photo: CountryZone.net
Journal 05/15/2012

Don Williams was one of the most successful artists of the 70's and 80's, only 4 out of his 46 single didn't make it to Top 10 and a number of his songs were big crossover pop hits on their own. This Gentle Giant, as he's been called ever since, has always enjoyed his privacy a lot and toured very rarely. I remember how saddened I was when his released his final album and did a farewell tour in 2004, and then again on the occasion of his Country Hall of Fame induction in 2010, when he agreed to do a show at the Ryman Auditorium after a 6-year break, where I was unable to go. Fortunately, that single show wasn't enough for Don and he eventually toured again, and this reconnection with his fans must have encouraged that much, so he returned to the studio, recorded his first album in 8 years and also announced a new world tour. I was lucky to see him perform in London on May 4th.

The show was opened by a newcomer Colm Kirwan and his 30-minute acoustic set accompanied by guitar and fiddle. Apparently on his first overseas tour, a Northern Ireland native kept talking over and over about how he lived in London for 5 years and that his first "Nashville album" just came out. At the end of his set he played a remix version of John Michael Montgomery's "I Love The Way You Love Me" in duet with Victoria Shaw, who reportedly produced his debut album. Victoria's vocals as well as music to the song were played from a pre-recorded track.

 

Don WilliamsAfter a short break the Hammersmith Apollo went crazy as the one and only Don Williams took the stage and without saying a word started playing his smash "Good Ole Boys Like Me". As usual, Don was sitting on a high stool with his feet on a black case, so that everyone could see him tapping his foot (can you image "Tulsa Time" without that?). He was backed by a 5-piece band on guitar, lead guitar, bass, keyboards and drums.

 

At the very beginning Don Williams announced he had always been a man of few words and that he was going to keep it that way. The show took place on a very cold day in London, so the only message he practically passed on the audience that night was that he kept his jacked on for the show as he was freezing all day in England. Don has always enjoyed a tremendous popularity in the UK and when somebody screamed "welcome home!", Don smiled and admitted he felt it this way, too.

 

Don played his lovely tunes one after another, such as "Some Broken Hearts Never Mend", She's In Love With A Rodeo Man and "Lay Down Beside Me". The only time he got up from his stool was when he and his band played an acoustic version of "I'll Be Faithful To You" with 4 harmonies on one microphone.

 

He saved his biggest hits for the second part of the show, though. First he played his beautiful old song "It Must Be Love", which became a #1 hit for Alan Jackson 20 years later, followed by his biggest crossover hit "I Believe In You".

 

Don WilliamsAfter introducing the band, Don played his breakthrough record "Tulsa Time", which in its day was one of the very first feet-stomping dance smash hits, the kind of songs that Tracy Byrd and Rick Trevino brought to perfection in the mid 90's.

 

When Don finished another delightful tune, Bob McDill penned "Amanda", it was time for the most impressive moment of the night. He started playing "You're My Best Friend", while the crowd sang along most of the song out loud . It was truly a magical moment and at the end of the song, Don, apparently moved himself, noted that he was hoping to come tour back to England again soon.

 

The audience sang along to the two last hit songs as well - "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good" and "I Recall A Gypsy Woman", which concluded the official part of the concert. Don didn't keep the crowd waiting for an encore long and said it was time for him to screw up the whole show. As he explained, he didn't play the next song in many years but said he would give it a shot. The crowd went totally mad as he started playing an acoustic version of "I'm Just A Country Boy".  The final encore was Don's original reendition of the cajun classic "Louisiana Saturday Night".

 

Seeing Don Williams in concert was a big dream come true. Even though he got a little older, his irreplaceable soft baritone hasn't changed a bit and the 72-year-old singer is still able to deliver a fantastic show. Let's hope there are many Don Williams shows to come in the future.

 

 

 

SETLIST:


01 Good Ole Boys Like Me

02 Some Broken Hearts Never Mend

03 She's In Love With A Rodeo Man

04 Back In My Younger Days

05 Lay Down Beside Me

06 Elise

07 I'll Be Faithful To You

08 How Did You Do It

09 Rake And Ramblin' Man

10 Till The Rivers All Run Dry

11 It Must Be Love

12 I Believe In You

13 Tulsa Time

14 Amanda

15 You're My Best Friend

16 Lord I Hope This Day Is Good

17 I Recall A Gypsy Woman

ENCORE:

18 I'm Just A Country Boy

19 Louisiana Saturday Night

 



 





 


(C) Petr Mecir 2012. All rights reserved.