In the sport of Baseball, there's what's known as a "utility player"; a rare athlete who can fit many different roles in a pinch. A player who has the speed to play in the outfield, the agility and instincts to play the infield, the bat strength to knock one out of the park occasionally and the drive and enthusiasm to show up to play every day. If one were to look for a viable counterpart to this type of multi-tasker in the world of music, one name would surely be at the top of that short list: Vince Gill.
Country music journeyman Vince Gill boasts an impressive list of assets on his resume: in his genre, he's at the head of his class in many areas. He's a terrific songwriter, he sings like a bird and he plays a mean guitar. Add to that already impressive list his "gift of the gab". Thursday night, Gill enchanted and delighted his near-sell out crowd at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater with what undoubtedly was some of the most entertaining and amusing between-song banter those in attendance had ever been exposed to. From downright hilarious accounts of some of his experiences from his 35-year long career as a musician to gut-wrenching tales of personal tragedies and woes, the evening's spoken portions were almost as entertaining as Vince's amazing musical performances.
Starting sharply at 8:00 pm, Gill instantly got the night off to a soaring start with "One More Last Chance", a massive hit from his multi-platinum 1992 album I Still Believe In You. Not long after getting the evening started, Gill gave an indication of what was to come; he spoke of his many years on the road as either an opening act or the second act on a multi-act bill and he let us know of his intentions. "I always said if I were ever lucky enough to become a headliner", he sheepishly announced "..that I would want to become the Bruce Springsteen of Country music, " alluding to the fact that Springsteen concerts never feature opening acts that Bruce always makes the most of his time onstage by playing marathon-length shows. And Gill kept his promise: the crowd was treated to a three-hour performance-a rarity these days regardless of the genre or the performer.
Vince managed to mix the set-list up cleverly. There were plenty of radio hits ("Pocket Full Of Gold", "Look At Us"), more obscure album cuts ("Oklahoma Borderline", "Real Mean Bottle"), a fine ballad co-written with his wife, Contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant ("Threaten Me With Heaven") as well some newer material that hasn't been committed to wax yet ("Lucky Diamond Motel", "Bread and Water).
Gill also managed to dazzle with his effortless guitar-playing chops. Alternating between acoustic and electric guitars, Gill is as comfortable strumming a vintage Martin acoustic model as he is grinding on a Gibson Les Paul. And again, treated us to a comical story about how he used all the money he was "supposed to use for college" on his first "good" guitar he bought when he went straight from high school into a bluegrass band.
Always socially aware and not one to shy away from causes,Vince also took time out to mention the importance of helping out in the plight of rebuilding Haiti after the devastating earthquakes that country's been plagues with. "It always feels better when you're giving" Gill stated.
Thursday night's show was a grand slam for Vince Gill; he dazzled the crowd for almost three hours, showed off his many musical talents and treated us to some fine storytelling. Now who wouldn't want to have a star player like this on their team?