"Do you want to go see Charley Pride?" asked my dad.
"I've got school that day," said Mika.
It's worth noting that at this point, none of us knew exactly when the concert was. Though in her defense, that statement is true as often as not. A safe bet, as it were.
Me, I can't say that seeing Charley Pride was #1 on my list of things to do either. But the guy is a legend, and I was getting my ticket paid for, and none of us are getting any younger, so what the heck, you know? I was substantially less keen on the idea when I realized it meant missing out on watching the NXT special* live, but whatever. I could watch it when I got home, right?
*(a wrestling thing - you either already knew that or don't care)
And so it was me, my dad, and my stepmom's parents, immortalized together in a concert review at last. Mika, as it turned out, did have school on the evening of the show. And my stepmom gets up too early for work on weekdays to make it through an evening concert, even one that keeps reasonable casino hours. Or at least this is what I was told. If I were to someday learn that secretly they got together and drank wine and laughed at us for going to this show, I would not be shocked.
The plan was to forego the standard pre-show casino meal and mad dash to the show lounge in favour of getting a pizza after the concert. From a scheduling point, I was a fan of this idea. Not so much the pizza part, as these days, I'm trying to eat in a manner vaguely resembling that of a normal human (do not ask how many cookies I had today) (as it was a lot) (a lot of cookies) and pizza can be hard to fit into that regimen. Especially late-day pizza. But some carefully limited eating ensured that I could at least have some pizza, assuming I blatantly lied to myself regarding how many calories pizza has. One sacrifices where one must.
My dad picked me up first and we set out to collect the in-laws. I hadn't seen them since before Christmas, and, well, there are some mobility issues that weren't there the last time I saw them. She looked to be doing okay, but him... just getting from the apartment door and into the car proved challenging. I suppose this is just one of those things that happens, but it was a bit shocking that it seemingly came on so fast.
Needless to say, the walk from the parking lot was out. My dad dropped us off by the door, and while he went to park the car, it was my job to keep everyone upright or sitting down until it was time to move again. I tried to suggest that we could find a place to sit inside, but no - my stepmom's dad found a ledge, sat down, and made friends with everyone else who got dropped off while the more mobile were parking and walking.
While we were waiting, Charley Pride walked right past us into the casino, about 15 feet from where I was standing. I appeared to be the only one who noticed.
Eventually, my dad found us - after looking around inside, where he might have reasonably expected to find us - and we made the slow trek into the show lounge. I could see why trying to make it from the restaurant in time would have been a struggle. I tried to keep a pleasant conversation going while my inside voice was screaming "stop walking so fast he can't walk that fast why aren't these people watching where they're going quit getting in the way AAAAAAAAAAAAAA" and yeah anyway I was pretty glad when we got to our seats. Normally I would collect our tickets and trade them for free slot play vouchers, and maybe check out the merch table, but I didn't want to leave anyone by themselves or try to drag them with me.
On the way in, we were handed brochures, listing tour dates and merchandise (of course), and introducing our opening act, Stephen Pride. Our guess was that this was Charley's son, but later found out it was his brother. He played for about a half-hour; a few originals but mostly covers of older country songs. He seemed a little awkward when talking with the crowd - tripped over his words a few times - but by and large I thought he was okay enough. Not particularly of interest to me, not great, but also not awful. The rest of my table, however, just wanted to talk about how he didn't have Charley's voice or Charley's presence. Which wasn't untrue, I guess, but it bothered me less than it did them. Not the first time I'd disagree with the consensus viewpoint on this night. We were, however, all in agreement that the highlight of the set was sitting near the sound booth and watching Charley Pride chat with the sound tech for a good 10 minutes.
Between sets, I amused myself by playing a game of "Who Here is Younger Than Me?" The goal was to find someone - a paid attendee, not someone working there - who was obviously younger than 38-year-old me. I couldn't do it. I saw a few people that MIGHT have been younger but not definitively so. Obviously, casino shows tend to skew old just based on who performs at casinos, but I've seen Wayne Newton and Bobby Curtola and Dr. John and Gordon Lightfood and Herman Hermit and this was the oldest audience of them all.
So I said I disagreed with the consensus of the table. Let me just say that if you're tired of the concert review trope of "I wish I'd seen him back when," you can pretty much close this down and hope I get my Danny Michel review written in under a month. Basically, from the time Charley Pride finished until I got dropped off at home, I lied. I said he put on a great show. I agreed that he still had his voice. I talked about what a fan I had become. I was not about to do anything to take away from anyone's enjoyment of the concert. But man.... this was not very good at all. Pride sang for 90 minutes, which would have been impressive enough except he really only had 60 minutes in him. The first hour was okay, though it seemed apparent to me that his voice wasn't what it once was. Not that it would be fair to expect it to be - the guy is pushing 80, after all. But he had this trick of ending songs by singing them really low, and it was an obvious cover that he couldn't hit the high notes anymore. This got worse in the last half-hour, which also had him telling stories and getting lost halfway through. Or he had these cards with people's birthdays on them, and he'd say happy birthday to them, only he'd get the names wrong, and couldn't see them if they waved at him and wasn't listening when his band tried to help him out, and then he'd just throw the cards on the floor and kind of mutter about it.
But you know. I was not a Charley Pride fan going into the evening. I looked up some of his singles online before the show, thinking that I'd know a bunch of them - this is the kind of music my dad always liked, so surely I heard lots of it growing up, right? Apparently not; I only knew a few of his biggest hits. So I wasn't coming at this from a place of nostalgia. The rest of my table was. I think my dad sang along with every song. His mother-in-law said that the show was the "highlight of the year." And the guy got a standing ovation. So... maybe it was just me? I don't know. Maybe I was just grumpy and hungry. I thought this was a Lightfoot-level show and I do not mean that in a complimentary way. But a room full of people disagreed with me - or, actually, two rooms full of people, since he was booked for a second night.
I did a bit of reading on Charley Pride when putting this together, and this guy lived on heck of an interesting life. If Wikipedia isn't lying to me, he played Negro League baseball, was the first black performer at the Grand Ol' Opry in over 20 years, is part owner of the Texas Rangers, and did a show in Belfast at the height of the IRA conflict. And The Rock is making a movie about his life. I'd watch that, and my tolerance for Rock movies is pretty minimal.
So yeah, I wish I'd seen him back when.
Anyway, we headed to the lobby to wait while my dad got the car. This took only slightly less than forever since everyone was leaving the show at once. We got everyone loaded into the car with much nervousness on my part but finally got everyone settled - just in time to see an old lady leave the casino and wipe out face-first. My dad and I went over to help her out, but she was fine; a little embarrassed, and disappointed that she cracked the cases of her new CDs, but otherwise okay.
We went for that post-show pizza, only the find that the pizza place closes at 11:00 and it was 10:55 when we got there. Oh well. At least it meant I got home in time to grab some chips and watch the NXT special. Except that when I went downstairs to get said chips, I found that there had been water leaking into the basement for two days. Not enough to cause any real damage, but a mess. And enough to incite mild-to-moderate stress which took me out of the mood to watch the show or eat anything, so I went to bed, looking forward to my already-booked vacation day which was now to be spent dealing with the plumber.
This was not a very good day, is what I'm saying.
(Postscript: my dad still talks about the greatness of this concert. His mother-in-law was so pleased that she baked him a pie. The plumber arrived promptly and the problem tap has been fixed. The NXT special was really good and I even managed to avoid spoilers. I'm still due for some pizza.)
UPCOMING SHOWS • Danny Michel (June 13) • Moist (July 11) • Geoff Berner w/Whiskey Jerks (July 29) • Fred Eaglesmith w/Tif Ginn (August 2) • Regina Folk Festival feat. Sinead O'Connor, Jenny Lewis, Vance Joy, Blue Rodeo, Bahamas, more (August 7-9) • Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (September 26) • Hawksley Workman (October 16)