Story and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisWhat can you possibly do after becoming the most popular band in your genre's history, scoring 42 number one singles, selling over 65 million CDs, and landing over 150 top industry awards? Not much for withstanding vocal group Alabama, other than to retire at the top and leave country's new class with a very tough pattern to follow. In keeping with the trends of enduring pop/rock acts making the final rounds this season (The Eagles, Cher, and Kiss) members are saying goodbye to the fan base they built up over the last 25 years. When originally announced, the Chicagoland date was supposed to be the last American concert ever, but thanks to strong sales and audience appreciation throughout autumn, a spring 2004 leg has been added in secondary cities.
Regardless if the band will really stick to its promise of "goodbye" or if you're not even remotely interested in Alabama's twangy southern style, there was no refuting the faithful's fervency at a recent Allstate Arena appearance. The audience was on its feet nearly the entire concert, screaming virtually every word to each song with enough emotion to signal this could indeed be their last chance to ever see Alabama. Group members followed through with just as much tenacity as they plowed through an exhaustive hit parade, split between the nostalgic re-visitations of the '70s and '80s, along with the romantic leanings of its last few recordings. The band's bearded leader Randy Owen was much of the reason for such reception, thanks to his crowd-working mix of reminiscing, thankfulness and even audience dedications on occasion. Backed by booming harmonies and several fiddle playing/steel guitar-focused band mates, Alabama cruised through nearly three hours of familiar selections, including the early evening favorites "Can't Keep a Good Man Down," "Down Home" and "Gone Country."
The gang later acknowledged the Yuletide season with a look at "Christmas in Dixie," provided a tribute to truck drivers during "Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)" and hinted at its heritage for "Song of the South." They also balanced traditional and contemporary country sounds, as showcased in the career spanning "Mountain Music," "Angels Among Us" and "Give Me One More Shot." A fellow home cooked high was implemented with the lovey dovey standards "Lay Down on Love" and "Forever's As Far As I'll Go," though the band was at its best for the highly harmonized hustle and bustle theme "I'm In a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)" and the hometown salute "My Home's in Alabama."
As much as the crowd ate out of the band's hand Saturday evening, the material laid out wasn't all that artistically remarkable upon a much closer inspection and dissection. Granted, the show was mostly entertaining, but Alabama basically recycled several of the same chords and stadium filling chants on their upbeat rockers, while falling to formula in several ballads laden with cliches. Maybe such simplicity and predictability is what made the band's music so easy to sing with, but after the first hour, even the die-hards may have admitted each song's uncanny similarities. That's certainly not a knock to a band that's accomplished so much over the years, but perhaps a confirmation of the watered down approach needed to consistently earn radio play, record sales, and arena selling status in this day in age. Despite such observations, Alabama had no trouble with the latter feat in Rosemont, and thanks it the tour's undeniable momentum, it should be able to carry into next year's second leg.
Here's Your Chance to.... Respond!
Your feedback will be featured on
Rant or Rave within 24 hours.
Return to Reviews
Return to Menu