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30 Apr 2016

Stagecoach 2016: Emmylou Harris Keeps It Simple—and Can Still Wow an Audience

Written by 
Emmylou Harris. Emmylou Harris. Kevin Fitzgerald

There are no bells nor whistles to Emmylou Harris does. Her show includes just guitars, bass, percussion—and stunning vocals.

This lesson was learned by those who stopped by her headlining performance in the Palomino Tent on Friday night at Stagecoach. For one hour, she mostly stood in the same place, played guitar and sang.

And it was magnificent.

As Emmylou opened her set with “Here I Am,” any doubts about the strength of the 69-year-old legend’s voice were immediately wiped away. From start to finish, her set was top-notch, and the sound in the Palomino Tent was great. While she didn’t draw a huge crowd like Lynyrd Skynyrd did a couple of years ago, or ZZ Top drew last year, she transfixed most of the attendees who were lucky to find spots close to the stage.

One highlight was a song on which she collaborated with Mark Knopfler called “Love and Happiness.” She delivered a stunning cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” soon after.

Emmylou Harris told a story about The Ballad of Sally Rose, a concept album she released in 1985. She noted that it was an album without a hit single—and she nearly went bankrupt as a result of it. She then played “The Sweetheart of the Rodeo” from the album.

Harris recalled the last time she played Stagecoach, in 2007, noting that Brooks and Dunn stole most of her crowd—and observing how much bigger the Palomino Tent had gotten in the years since. She then turned over the stage to her percussionist and her guitarist, Mary Ann Kennedy and Pam Rose, who performed their 1989 single from their Kennedy Rose days, “Love Like This.”

Toward the end of the set, Emmylou Harris performed a cover of “Spanish Dancer,” written by her friend Patti Scialfa, who she said was “Mrs. Bruce Springsteen”—a title that overshadows her talent as a brilliant songwriter, she noted. She then closed with a cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”

Considering Emmylou Harris was an essential part of the ’70s country music scene and a key figure in the Bakersfield sound, she’s a true country legend. It was fantastic to see her back at Stagecoach—and still sounding great.

 

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