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sandym-iconI’m a country music fan. Have been since the early ’80s when I fell in love with Alabama. I went from Rod Stewart, Journey, Barry Manilow, Queen, Abba, and the like to Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Michael Montgomery, The Judds, and so many more. It’s been a fun ride. However, I don’t listen to the radio that much anymore – the new artists are getting younger and younger every year, and while I like a few, most don’t thrill me like those ’80s artists. I received a very nice gift last night – free tickets to see Martina McBride, one of the “old school” for me, at a local made-over movie theater. My problem?

I was a bit disappointed because I could hear maybe a quarter of the words to the songs Martina sang. Even those songs I’m familiar with couldn’t be heard over all that racket coming out of super large speakers.

The Fox Theater, which now boasts a stage as well as a big screen, is a very small venue. I was there many a time in my youth to watch popular movies of the time with friends. That building is a fixture in downtown, and there’s a campaign to keep refurbishing it so it doesn’t have to be closed down, as happened a number of years ago. So acoustics aren’t the greatest, and, for a concert like last night, those huge speakers and a six-piece band overwhelmed the space.

Thus, it also overwhelmed Martina and that beautiful voice she has.

I first saw her in concert years ago when she opened for Garth Brooks. The country music world was just getting to know her and to love her. I enjoyed her immensely at that time. Especially when she sang a Christmas song or two a capella. Not many times when you hear something that special. So that’s what I was hoping to see this time around.

Take a look for yourself:

Needless to say, I got more ear-banging, heart-throbbing music than I got vocals.

Back in 2004 I was lucky enough to attend a John Berry concert in a neighboring town at their Fox theater, which is also a small venue. John’s tour was titled Songs and Stories. He sat on stage with his guitar and sang. Told stories. Sang some more. Now and again his keyboard player would accompany him and his wife Robin sang a few songs with him. Otherwise, in that cozy, intimate setting, it was pure voice, and John Berry definitely has that. I’ve been fan since his performance of his No. 1 hit, Your Love Amazes Me, on the Country Music Awards when his career first started. Anyway, this was the perfect setup for such an intimate setting, something I wish other artists would take into consideration when performing at smaller venues.

This video isn’t that particular performance of John’s, it’s closer to his Songs and Stories, but you get the idea:

While the crowd enjoyed Martina last night, I think most would have been overjoyed if her show had been scaled down – only a couple band members for accompaniment and not so many humungous speakers and the only true instrument on stage – her voice.

But with ringing ears afterward and giving my problem more thought, am I just getting old? I don’t like loud music like I used to thirty years ago? Or do I just appreciate the art in its purest form, wanting to get the maximum enjoyment possible in such situations? I think it’s definitely the latter. I know I would still get a kick out of hearing Martina – or any other country artist – belt out songs in an arena made for the typical show/entertainment, as I have other artists in the past. But sometimes intimacy should rule the night.