Photos: Courtesy of Reba’s Business, Inc.
February 15 was admittedly not Reba’s first time inside the Ryman Auditorium, but the day did mark the country queen’s first full show at the historic venue. It was over 50 years ago Reba and her family took a rare vacation from Oklahoma to see the Grand Ole Opry.
“I was about eight years old and got to feeling bad [during the Opry] so I said, ‘Mama, I think I’m gonna get sick,’” recalled Reba of her first Ryman experience. “She didn’t take her eyes off the stage and said, ‘Go find a bathroom.’ I took off and looked in every door. Finally, I walked right out the front door and vomited right on the front steps of the Ryman Auditorium. Did y’all walk in that way?”
With the crowd rolling, Reba began a two-hour afternoon set, interspersing her greatest hits with new material from her Feb. 3 gospel/inspirational album Sing It Now: Songs Of Faith & Hope.
The 2:30 p.m. matinee, which was announced shortly after strong ticket sales for the 7 p.m. engagement, featured no surprise guests but nods from the stage to buddies, including producer Tony Brown and one-time manager Bill Carter, in addition to her family.
Reba reminisced about the past and present, kicking off with an a cappella “Jesus Loves Me,” which was later revealed to be the first song she sang in front of an audience. The entertainer then went right in to a recently written inspirational song she and her mother Jackie McEntire have writing credits on, called “I Got The Lord On My Side.”
The timing of the 2017 engagement was significant for Reba who—in the last few years—lost her father, Clark McEntire, before her brother Pake began recovering from a stroke and her 26-year marriage to her longtime manager ended.
“This year marks my 41st year in the music business and the first time I’ve recorded an inspirational gospel album,” said Reba, who now manages herself. “It was a year ago January 26 when we all got together with the record labels and said let’s do this. I’ve had a lot of changes in my life over the past two years and people ask me how I got through it. I can easily say it’s my faith, family and friends.”
After a quick tissue break, Reba broke the mood with what she called girl-power songs. Strong anthems, mostly from her Big Machine Label Group discography, included “Goin’ Out Like That” “Consider Me Gone” and “Turn On The Radio.” Thankfully Reba’s catalog is chock-full of those resiliency/heartache titles, put on such display as during a medley of “You’re No Good,” “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” and “Walk On.” Reba’s current, Randy Houser-written single, “Back To God,” received a standing ovation before those larger-than-life productions of signature hits were delivered.
“This is a very special day to us, and that’s why you’ll be seeing cameras floating around everywhere because I wanted to put this on film, especially since this is the 125th anniversary of the Ryman Auditorium,” explained Reba.
With no release date announced for the filming, cameras were able to capture Reba’s surprise guests from the evening.
Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood joined during the evening show for “Softly And Tenderly,” a title they recorded for Reba’s latest release, in addition to Linda Davis, who reunited for their 1993 Grammy-winning song “Does He Love You.” The Isaacs joined Reba on stage. The family group recorded “In The Garden / Wonderful Peace” on Reba’s new album. Speaking of, the McEntire sisters—Alice, Reba, Susie and Jackie—joined each other in a rare appearance as a quartet for “I’ll Fly Away.”
Although the Ryman Auditorium contains nearly half the audience of her residency gig with Brooks & Dunn at Caesars Palace, the audience rose to embrace the legendary entertainer after for performances of “Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia,” and “Is There Life Out There” for “Fancy,” which included the infamous red dress.
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