The story in Nashville on ABC-TV is a little worn, but the music's still fresh and fabulous, even though you can't get enough in what seem like shorter and shorter clips. The perfect remedy is a live concert at the Theater at Madison Square Garden - always the Felt Forum in my 1960s mind - with some of the best voices and performers on the show, off the screen and on the stage.
There's some kind of magical chemistry when you see in person a performer you've come to know as a character in a television series. This became clear when the Monkees first began touring, or when "Bombshell" from Smash had a one-night stand on Broadway last year.
When The Triple Xs from Nashville brought down the house with a stellar rendition of "Borrow My Heart" last night, you not only had a great song (written by Lia and Phillip LaRue) and bright ringing harmonies from Sam Palladio, Clare Bowen, and Jonathan Jackson (left to right), but the intertwining back stories of Gunnar, Scarlet, and Avery, as they sing and Sam and Jonathan strum and smile at Clare as she spins around like an enchanting dervish on stage.
The repartee did a fine job of deliberately weaving the live performance into what we've been seeing on the screen. Jonathan introduced The Triple Xs with an apology for the poor treatment Avery gave Scarlet in the first season. Charles Esten quipped that he "scraped together" enough money to get out of jail, which is where he landed (ugh!) in the episode of Nashville just this past Wednesday night. Chris Carmack opened the concert with a spirited performance of Will Lexington's only "hit record".
The talent of these people is multi-faceted. Esten was reminiscent of Elvis in some of his moves. Jonathan sounded a little like Dylan at times, and did a tour-de-force performance of "Love Rescue Me" (written by Dylan and Bono) which ended with Jonathan singing like Johnnie Rae (look it up). Carmack not only sings and plays guitar, but picked up a saxophone, and is a hard blues man to boot. Esten brought out his daughter Taylor to sing "Believing" with him - a real daughter in place of his Nashville daughter Maddie - and the result was wonderful. As was the finale second-encore number, "A Life That's Good," sung to perfection by everyone.
Viewers of Nashville know there's extraordinary songwriting talent on the show. At the concert, we were treated to some of the songs written by the stars. My favorites were by Chris Carmack and Sam Palladio, but all were excellent.
In effect, the two hours on stage were an uncorking of what we've seen just hints and samples of in the television series. This suggests that whatever happens to the series, we'll be hearing and watching these five for years to come - but ABC, you'd be crazy not to renew Nashville, and the uniquely appealing merging of fiction and reality it now has become.
an earlier performance, but much like last night