ALISON KRAUSS and UNION STATION featuring JERRY DOUGLAS at Massey Hall, May 14. Tickets: $39.50-$69.50. Attendance: sold out.
Just hearing the words "Massey Hall" is enough to get me excited about a show. Not that regular hangouts like Lee's or the Horseshoe don't have their own virtues; it's just that the hall's long history and the majestic beauty of its interior, with those brass rails wrapping around the balconies, make me happy just to be in the joint. And, yeah, having the best sound of any hall in the country doesn't hurt either.
Promptly at 8, the well-heeled and mostly middle-aged crowd politely applauded as Alison Krauss and Union Station walked onstage. A couple of hooligans shockingly stood up and cheered and whistled, much to the dismay of the other attendees, who'd thought this was a civilized social setting.
What ensued was pure professionalism in every sense of the word - no surprise given the performers' talents. What wasn't expected was the way each band member interacted with the crowd.
The show was exactly two hours long, but only about an hour and a half was given over to actual music. Krauss seemed to get a big kick out of telling long self-deprecating stories that had the fans eating up every word. As good as the music was, I'll bet what most people will remember is Krauss's way with a story.
Full-on introductions of every band member, including an endearing story about each one, made the crowd feel as if we were old friends catching up after too long apart.
An hour in, after a solid mix of yearning ballads and spirited bluegrass, everyone left the stage save for master dobro player Jerry Douglas , who took over for a brief solo set that showcased his frenetic picking abilities and musical tastes. Who knew this bluegrass legend has a thing for Duane Allman? His version of the Allman Brothers' Little Martha was sublime and a highlight of the evening.
You'd think that after all the hoopla about the band's work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, they'd be a little sick of playing the material by now, but you get a definite sense that they're still proud of it, and the sparkle in guitarist and singer Dan Tyminski 's eye when he spoke about being George Clooney's singing voice was infectious. When they broke into Man Of Constant Sorrow, the crowd finally got jumping, clapping in unison and even stomping their feet.