Music fans who attended the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s sold-out 50th Anniversary Show at the Ryman Auditorium enjoyed a night filled with amazing music from the group and some very special guests.
Even though I’ve attended many sold-out shows at the Ryman, this was the first time I saw a line of people stretching two blocks from its doors. The Sept. 15 show, which was filmed for an upcoming PBS special, was by far the hottest ticket in Nashville that night.
The show kicked off with an introduction by the band’s longtime friend and honorary “little brother”, Vince Gill. After the group emerged onto the historic stage to a wave of cheers, they sped into their tracks “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and “Face on the Cutting Room Floor”.
Moments later, founding member Jeff Hanna welcomed out legendary singer-songwriter John Prine, whom he called “one of the greatest songwriters in the world”. He was awarded with one of the many standing ovations of the night before performing his classics “Grandpa Was a Carpenter” and “Daddy, Won’t You Take Me Back to Muhlenberg County”.
Each band member enjoyed their own solo moments in the spotlight. John McEuen, who contributed most of the night’s comic relief, performed an impressive banjo solo during his instrumental performance of “My Walkin’ Shoes”. Vince Gill made his way back onstage for rousing renditions of “Tennessee Stud” and “Honky Tonkin’”, before Jackson Browne provided two soulful songs, including “These Days”.
If I described every notable moment during this concert, you’d be reading a short novel.
Jeff Hanna and Bob Carpenter’s performance of “Bless the Broken Road”, made famous by Rascal Flatts, was a true tearjerker. A beautiful rendition of “Keep on the Sunny Side”, provided by Alison Krauss and Rodney Crowell, and songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker’s co-performance of “Mr. Bojangles” were obvious crowd favorites.
Former member Jimmy Ibbotson also reunited with the band after 12 years to perform some of their best-known hits. The crowd went wild as they powered through “Dance Little Jean” and “Ripplin’ Waters”. The exciting energy buzzing within the auditorium hit a new high as the audience sang along to the band’s classic hit, “Fishin’ in the Dark”. After their rendition of “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)”, Nitty Gritty made their way off the stage as they thanked the crowd with smiles and waves.
After a few minutes of cheers, claps and stomps from the floorboards, the band reemerged with most of the night’s special guests alongside them. It was an emotional moment as they came together to sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, which marked a historic moment in the band’s incredible career. The three-hour performance will likely become a precious memory not only for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but for all who were lucky enough to be in attendance.
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