Gary Allan Concert Plays Like An Autobiography

gary allanOnstage Gary Allan pulls off the remarkable feat of opening up emotionally without shedding his tough-guy armor. Last night (April 17) at the Ryman Auditorium, he was like a veteran soldier singing an autobiography of hurt, loss and heartache. The first of a two-night stand at the venue featured opener Kristen Kelly.

Allan’s recognizable vocals automatically make every song his own, and he displayed an even more potent authenticity on the tracks from his new album, Set You Free. Most artists don’t release a career-making album with almost two decades of steady success behind them, but Allan’s not a typical artist.

Clad in all black, the tattooed tunesmith offered a set that reminded fans of his track record of hits while showcasing his new material with exceptional believability. Lighting and video elements enhanced the experience and would translate well to a bigger venue.

Alongside Allan’s usual themes of pain and regret, the album offers signs of redemption. With Hillary Lindsey and Matt Warren, Allan composed the project’s biggest hit so far “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain),” a song about moving forward with the lyric “set you free.” Lindsey, who also appears in the music video and on the recording, came onstage to offer harmony vocals.

The mood was equally powerful on “It Ain’t The Whiskey,” with images of a church and cross on the video screen. His tendency for booze-fueled self-medication continued with the excellent but bitter lost-love song “Sand In My Soul,” a gem by the Warren Brothers and Blair Daly about wasting away at the beach.

Songwriter Rachel Proctor joined Allan for “You Without Me,” which they wrote with her husband John Lancaster, who is also Allan’s piano player.

Allan’s knack for picking songs with superb lyrics is undeniable. He acknowledged others who contributed to the album watching in the audience, including longtime producer Mark Wright, and songwriters Odie Blackmon and Sarah Buxton, co-writers with Allan on his exceptional current single “Pieces.”

The star didn’t neglect his past hits, going all the way back to his first single “Her Man,” a 1995 preview of his penchant for songs about regret, and his first No. 1 “Man To Man.” He covered a lot of territory, thrilling fans with favorites “Smoke Rings In The Dark,” “Nothing On But The Radio,” “Watching Airplanes,” “A Feelin’ Like That,” and “Best I Ever Had,” complete with a crowd sing-along.

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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