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Weekend Reviews | Pop Music Review

Gill Delivers Songs With Real Feelings

July 13, 1998|RICHARD CROMELIN

The audience cheered after Vince Gill sang the first verse of his soulful ballad "I Still Believe in You" early in his Universal Amphitheatre show on Friday, but it wasn't for the familiarity of a big hit or in response to vocal technique.

Either or both would have made sense, but this cheer seemed something different, and deeper--a recognition that this cast-against-type country star had struck a vein of emotional truth, and that this kind of thing needs cheering at a time when the field is bereft of real feeling and meaning.

A similar moment occurred later in the show when Gill played "The Key to Life," a song from his upcoming album. To a simple, folk-based arrangement, Gill sang about his recently deceased father, linking the man to lessons learned about humility and the passion for music. Again, the emotional response from the crowd was less a note of sympathy for Gill's loss than a shared gratitude for his willingness to turn it into a touching comment about life.

The standard line on Gill is that he's a nice guy and a strong, multiple talent as singer, songwriter and lead guitarist, but it was this drive to connect to real issues that made Gill's concert a whole different species from the standard '90s country production. You'd even have to scour the other popular music genres pretty thoroughly to find anyone delivering such a winning blend of craft and spirit.

It's become tempting in recent years to take the easygoing Gill for granted and to regard his music as soft. But if he ever went through a spell of complacency, he's out of it now. Whether soloing with rock-style intensity or fitting into the ensemble work of his fine eight-piece band, Gill always radiated the sheer love of playing you'd find in an eager beginner.

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