There is a theatre here in Branson that is legendary. On May 1,1992, Andy Williams opened his own theatre and named it appropriately, Moon River. I had a chance to go see an incredible show there and I was not disappointed in either the building or the entertainment.
The Hits Starring Collin Raye is a show that includes some of the fifteen number one hits that Collin Raye has written, produced and recorded, but also includes some of his favorite songs that of course, were a lot of my favorite songs. I have to be honest and admit that I wasn’t quite sure who Collin Raye was. Yes, I had heard the name and I knew he was a country star, but I couldn’t have named a song he did before I saw this outstanding show. Now, he has gained a fan for life and the only regret I have is for not discovering him earlier than I did. He’s that good.
Collin started the show with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and I knew that I had to immediately throw all my preconceived notions out the nearest exit. He had me from that first song. I also have to mention that his band was maybe one of the tightest, hard-hitting bands I have heard. It was also great to hear the audience singing along on so many of the songs including Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.”
Collin Raye has a beautiful voice with rich, high tones and he was pretty much pitch perfect throughout the night. When he did his own hit, “Love, Me” the tears started flowing and the only time they really stopped was when Chipper Lowell provided some magic and comedy. If you have never heard, “Love, Me,” please do yourself a huge favor and go take a listen. If you don’t at least tear up, then I don’t see how we can be friends. It’s a beautiful love song that will pull at your heart strings in the best of ways.
There’s also a segment of the show that Collin pays tribute to Glen Campbell. There’s a short clip on the big screens in the theatre of Collin Raye presenting the Pioneer Award to Glen Campbell when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Collin explains that it was one of the greatest moments of his life and you could feel his sincerity. He then sang, “Gentle On My Mind.” For those of you that aren’t familiar with this song or are too young to remember it, it’s another one that you absolutely need to go listen to. The song brings forth poignant memories for me as it’s one I can remember my dad singing. The guitar intro on this song has to be one of the most recognizable ever and by the time Collin had finished the two song tribute, I was close to sobbing. Collin pointed out that they don’t write songs like this anymore, and I absolutely concur.
As much as I like the good tears and the emotions this wonderful show brought out in me, I was thankful and relieved when funny-man, Chipper Lowell took the stage to entertain us for a few minutes. I had never seen Chipper live before, though by chance, I had caught him on Masters of Illusion just a few nights before the concert. My first thought within a minute of his routine was that he’s Carrot Top without the bright orange hair and a lot less frenetic. Honestly, I liked him much better than Carrot Top and actually found myself laughing at his interaction with members of the audience. He does funny magic and a juggling bit and works out of a large trunk that holds all his gags and props. Chipper Lowell provides the perfect interlude with just the right amount of levity. It was also fun texting back and forth with Chipper during the intermission and of course, this is Branson, so these great entertainers are really that accessible. Yep, so accessible and friendly that I’m sure I almost made Chipper miss his cue to start the second half while I was busy blaming my stupid smart phone for spelling a name wrong three times!
Collin Raye returned to the stage after Chipper’s opening act and wowed me once again. Another person that really stood out was Shaunna Larkin who plays fiddle and mandolin as well as singing back-up vocals for the country crooner. This young lady was outstanding on the fiddle and I loved when her and Collin launched into “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” which is a classic Charlie Daniel’s song. Ms. Larkin absolutely made that fiddle sing. I really have to give kudos to the entire band and tell you that they are one of the hottest sounds around. Really tight and clean and simply kickin’ it!
This phenomenal show had old favorites, new favorites and I loved all of it. However, one of the most emotional moments came at the very end of the night when Collin Raye surprised me once again and did a song by of all bands, New Direction. He did a cover of their “Story Of My Life” that he sung so well and with such heart that I could believe he had actually written the song. This man is a top-notch, professional performer while managing to maintain his selfless humanity. I did get to meet him, Chipper Lowell and Ross Thomas after the show and I understand why they fit in so well in Branson. They’re exemplary guys that went out of their way to meet with their fans, sign autographs and take a couple hundred pictures. This is one thing that makes Branson so unique and so soul-inspiring. The people like Collin Raye and Chipper Lowell that do their jobs so well that it really stops being a job and simply becomes something magical.
The Hits Starring Collin Raye is only in Branson for a limited engagement and I can’t encourage you enough to go see this quality family show. You’ll not only be entertained for a couple of hours but you will walk away feeling better than when you went in.