posted on September 15, 2017 04:25
Saturday, September 9th, 2017 – Deryl Dodd Delivers a Spirited and Heartfelt Performance to Eager Fans at Arlington’s Levitt Pavilion
The fall concert season at Arlington, Texas’ Levitt Pavilion was just starting to get underway, and in its second week the venue in the heart of downtown welcomed Deryl Dodd back to the stage. A stage he hadn’t played in a little over three years, quipping that he had done something the last time that brought on organizers telling him they never wanted him back again.
That was (presumably) the first joke of the night from the energetic, active and personable country musician, with many more to follow once he and his band mates kicked things off at 8:06.
Their set – which ran upwards of two hours – would encompass (almost) all of the hits, a string of fan favorites being heard right out of the gate. That included “Movin’ Out to the Country”, their second song of the night coming in quick succession after the opening number; that song being the first that was steeped in the honky-tonk sound that Dodd’s music is known for. Making it all the more riveting was how lively he was, constantly moving his arms around, be it pointing victoriously at the sky or motioning at the throng of supporters and then himself at the line, “…So if you’re really into you and me…”. Those simple gestures added a lot to the performance and further highlighted just how jubilant Dodd was, delighted to be there amongst a sea of fans.
The chipper mood took a turn with the heartbreaker that was “She’ll Have You Back”, after which Dodd and company took their first break of the night, allowing him to converse with the spectators. From, “God bless Texas and God bless Florida,” speaking of the hurricanes that recently had and were about to hit those states, to speaking of what a good friend Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry was and how he was still in shock of his sudden passing, Dodd covered it all. He even reminisced about being the house band at Cowboys Arlington back in the day (specifically, 1997), something plenty of people there this night seemed to remember. It established the connection he has to the city, an affinity for it that runs deep.
They may have been just getting started, though even that early on they appeared to have settled into a groove. Dodd frequently pointed at fans and friends – knowing several by name – and bassist Kerry Wilson was clearly getting a thrill out of performing, often locking eyes with the concert goers. He was even seen working to get the attention of a young kid sitting atop his father’s shoulders this night, Wilson waving and smiling at him.
“Honky Tonk Champagne” and “Back To The Honky Tonks” sounded like a match made in heaven, barely even enough time for applause allowed between that dynamic cut and subsequent pure country tune that showcased Dodd’s stellar southern twang.
Buck Owens’ “Together Again” became the first cover of the night, and shortly after it was time for “a little Haggard” as Dodd put it, using that as the launching point for Merle Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever”. There are relatively few more modern-day artists out there who are capable of covering songs by country legends like that and actually manage to do them justice, though Dodd is certainly one of them. While his style was still present, he made sure they felt authentic, sounding just like those country classics should. The audience loved every second of it as well, echoing along to every word – something that held true for Dodd’s original material as well.
Like on “Sundown”, a song that stood out as one of the best of the night. The audience was delighted to hear it; and as it drew to a close – seemingly having already ended – they dove back in. “…If I find you been creepin’ ‘round my back stairs,” Dodd belted out, nearly a cappella, sounding extraordinary and bringing the song to an epic finish that earned some rave fanfare.
Some more banter came not long after, Dodd noting his favorite place to eat in Dallas was on Mockingbird Lane: Campisi’s. He spoke of sitting at the bar there until one in the morning, having some drinks. “…They’re like, ‘Deryl, I know you’re a vampire, but we closed at ten!’,” he said, grinning and chuckling as the crowd laughed.
Attention then turned to his latest record, Long Hard Ride. (“We got it in square vinyl,” he remarked, pointing to their merch table. “Well, it’s not square, but the packaging is!” he added.)
The album revisits several of his classics and transforms them into duets; the latest single from it being “One Ride in Vegas”, featuring Cody Johnson.
“CODY JOHNSON!” Dodd exclaimed as he turned around and looked at the backstage area. “CODY JOHNSON!” he repeated with pure enthusiasm, as if introducing the musician who… was not there. Not that anyone expected him to be.
That left “One Ride in Vegas” completely up to Dodd, that longstanding favorite highlighting his exquisite knack for both songwriting and storytelling. Sounding beautiful, the hope it radiates mixed with the subtle poignancy that permeates it allows the song to really connect with people.
Upon finishing it, Dodd treated everyone to a sort of anecdote regarding Troy Gentry, saying he had first met the late musician in Nashville at a bar called The Church. “It used to be a church…” Dodd acknowledged before dedicating the coming track – “Bad for Good” – to Gentry.
“Wrapped” felt like a worthy follow-up, the George Strait tune seeming like it went hand in hand with the song it proceeded; and once it was in the bag they tried their hand at another cover, the only non-country song of the show. That’s not to say Dodd and his band mates didn’t put a country twist on it, though.
Proclaiming he had “twang in his veins” he not so assuredly informed everyone he was going “to try to do this,” leaving the audience wondering what he was referring to. It wound up being a little something from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers catalog, “The Waiting” being largely acoustic. Ideal for a sing along.
“Tom Petty! Tom Petty!” Dodd exclaimed afterwards, sounding winded, as if he had just run a marathon. He was still raring to go, though, with plenty energy left to spare.
However, he did take some down time as he formally introduced his band mates. (Band mates whom he stated had been “putting up” with him for “twenty thousand years”.) From Wilson, to drummer Andrew Raley, who hailed from Lancaster. Multiple mentions of the city failed to generate even the subtlest of noises. “Am I saying it wrong?!” Dodd questioned, still sounding upbeat. “Oh! It’s a long ‘A’!” he declared after someone pronounced it for him, soon saying it the correct way (and earning some noise in the process).
Steve Rhian was last to be introduced, soon taking command with a superb guitar solo. Slick and polished, he had ample time to demonstrate his prowess. Nothing over-the-top, yet still fancy and teeming with precision.
That led to one of the smoothest songs of the night, “Things Are Fixin’ to Get Real Good” possessing a pureness about it that was unrivaled this night; Wilson getting the reins afterwards for a rendition of “Mustang Sally”. It garnered a positive response from the multitude of people; Wilson having a great voice to boot, sounding in charge. That freed Dodd up to take advantage of the large stage. He had milled around when able during some instrumental breaks, but it was then he really roamed about, dancing around at times when his guitar wasn’t crucial and just enjoying himself and having a blast.
Ultimately, the night came to an end with Dodd’s take on “The Ride”, the mere mention of David Allan Coe being more than enough to elicit some fanfare as this 96-minute long set concluded. “We had a great time with y’all!” he stated, beaming out at everyone as he brandished his guitar in the air.
The most stunning thing about this was how few people had left. The sprawling lawn was packed; and while typically people will duck out when they know the show is almost over, this night they were staying put. Only a handful had called it an early night, while everyone else was eager for the encore they knew had to be coming.
“…I love each and every one of you!” commented Dodd upon stepping back out underneath the spotlights. Gracious and genuine, what he said came from the heart as he expressed his gratitude to everyone for sticking with him for any length of time over the last couple of decades or so, acknowledging it was because of them he was even there at the Levitt on this night in the first place.
“Only Thing That I Have Left” was done almost as a way of saying thanks to those dedicated fans and friends, the loyalists that have stuck by the musician through thick and thin. The band would reemerge for one last number for the night, though it was that bare bones solo track that made the encore, because it was sentimental and came straight from the heart.
Heart was exactly what Deryl Dodd and his band mates had and subsequently delivered to the audience this night, digging deep and holding nothing back, and that was what made them not just enjoyable but an absolute pleasure to watch and listen to. It was easy to get lost in the music, the near two hours they were on stage flying by.
That’s a relatively rare combination to witness, one where the musicians are so exuberant, obviously relishing being where they’re at and doing what they love. That just speaks further to their adoration for their supportive fan base, wanting to put on the best show possible because they knew it was what all of those people that had ventured out deserved.
It was a legitimate entertaining performance they put on; Dodd wearing many hats, ranging from being a superb singer – his voice being extremely unique and inimitable, and it has only grown better with age – to that of a storyteller and funny man. The anecdotes he shared, even if it was just something as simple as naming his favorite restaurant in Dallas, allowed the patrons to feel a deeper connection to him, while the smile he constantly wore and the jokes he consistently cracked were inviting to the onlookers and further humanized him. It did so to the point that everyone there felt like they knew him to some extent, Dodd presenting himself more as a friend to all; even the newcomers (such as myself) felt like there was a longstanding bond there.
An institution of the Texas country music scene, these seasoned pros haven’t lost sight of what it’s all about over the years, the fans being well aware of that fact and appreciating it, and in turn that cultivated an excellent rapport between Dodd and the crowd this night. It was kind of magic, the type of thing that needs to be experienced firsthand in order to fully appreciate it; and hopefully three more years don’t go by before Dodd returns to the stage at the Levitt.
Long Hard Ride along with past releases can be purchased on iTUNES or GOOGLE PLAY. Dodd also has plenty of shows lined up around the Lone Star State, including a acoustic set at Lava Cantina in The Colony on September 14th, opening for Dean Dillon. He’ll perform at the Honky Tonk Fest at Whitewright Tractor Pull Park in Whitewright, TX on September 23rd; and September 29th will find him at Southern Junction in Rockwall, TX. On October 5th he’ll be one of the performers at Tommy Alverson’s Family Gathering #20 in Mineral Wells; and the Ivanhoe Wine and Music Festival in Ivanhoe, TX will host him on October 21st.
by Jordan Buford - THE MUSIC ENTHUSIAST