5/9/05 TR/JJ/Ethel at The Ryman

Review by John Stoecker (Switch to

For those that don't know, the Ryman is the original home of The Grand Ol' Opry from the 1920's until the '70's, and there's a lot of musical history lingering within. It is an everlasting credit to Gaylord Entertainment that they renovated the Ryman such that it retains its heritage and sound qualities while attaining modern amenities.

We can debate about the acoustics there versus other venues, but as far as I'm concerned it's the most likely place in Nashville to have a good sonic experience from "name" acts, assuming things aren't over-amplified.

Ethel was great. The bass from the cello was very impressive, yet it didn't overwhelm the viola or violins. I thought the sound of the quartet was excellent - each part was distinct, yet blended well, and the dynamic range was great. The music was challenging, but interesting and entertaining, and a definite change from the usual. The 'fiddle' piece seemed particularly appropriate, given the venue - keep on rockin!

I believe both Joe and Todd's sets strike a good balance between the very familiar hits we know by heart and the things that deserved more attention but didn't get it. In the case of Joe's set, I would have wished for a little less piano, a little 'warmer' piano sound, and more vocal in the house mix. But musically, Joe was great, and well up to the challenge of an 'unplugged' set.

In the case of Todd's set, I would also have wished for a little warmer acoustic guitar (acoustic guitars with built-in pickups are in my mind a mixed blessing from a sound perspective - no feedback, but a tendency to be plasticky-sounding and midrangy).

I was delighted that Todd did "Afterlife", as that is one of my favorite songs from the Liars album, the whole of which I consider ample evidence that his music is still effective and relevant. I was hoping for more "new" stuff, and perhaps more Ethel/Joe/Todd stuff, but the rendition of Black Mariah as an encore was awesome.

There were glitches, but in looking at other reviews, I'd say things went better than many other shows.

I was disappointed to hear Todd remark that the Nashville show was the smallest turn-out so far. C'mon, people - I thought this was the "music city"! Ya snooze, ya lose!!!

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05/09/2005 - The Ryman - Nashville, TN

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