Emmylou Harris opened her Performing Arts Series concert on Saturday evening with a warm welcome to her audience.“Settle back and see where we take ya,” Harris said as she strummed her guitar and looked out onto a packed Sauder Hall.
Tickets to see the 12-time Grammy country singer–known for partnering with other folk icons like John Denver, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson–had been sold out for weeks.
Many audience members, like Mark Nafziger, ’81, were long-time fans thrilled to see the musician they’d followed since their college years. Others, like Becca Yoder, a senior, were curious to hear Harris for the first time.
Harris’ raspy but full vocals were supported by The Red Dirt Boys, a five-member group that Harris joked was “the only band a girl could ever want.” Between Harris’ guitars–which were switched eight times throughout the performance to remain in tune–and the band’s mandolin, fiddle, banjo and drum set, the concert was a showcase in instrumental diversity and talent.
Harris, who will release her 27th album next month at the age of 65, showed an impressive endurance as she belted out song after song for two hours straight. “This should have made me tired, all those records and stuff,” Harris said, “but I’m still ready to go.”
She delighted the crowd with country and folk classics, including Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl,” yet still shared her own recordings, like “My Name is Emmitt Till.” Harris also found a balance between rock and country. Though one song had Harris and the band dancing to a deep bass line, another, “Calling My Children Home,” was sung a capella with three band members pressed close to one microphone.
Alongside her clear vocals, Harris offered jokes and a warm presence all the while. And after Harris bowed to the second standing ovation of the night, she led two extra band members across the stage: her rescue dogs. Harris said she is an avid supporter of dog rescue.
For more information on the Performing Arts Series, visit gcmusiccenter.org.