Cowboy hats and beer bottles filled the air as fans put their hands up to celebrate Alabama’s 50th anniversary on April 27 in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Alabama is known by some as the “greatest country band of all time" — and has a collection of 44 number one hits to back the title up. Founded in 1969, the band hit the road for its 50th anniversary tour in early January.
“We’ve been living the dream,” frontman Randy Owen said of the past 50 years. “There’s no way we weren’t gonna show up tonight and give it everything we’ve got.”
The Charlie Daniels Band opened up the night, sending energy through the audience. They got fans to their feet with guitar battles and fiddle jams along with some of their most popular songs like “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Many audience members were surprised at how energetic Daniels was, as he’s 82 years old. Craig Richman, a concert attendee who has been a fan of Alabama for 30 years, said he was “shocked” to see Daniels perform.
“I was floored by [him],” Richman said.
Daniels brought the perfect amount of electricity as the opening act, which brought the energy in the arena up for the main act.
“Are you ready to party?” Daniels asked, receiving a booming response from the audience. “Let’s get her done.”
After The Charlie Daniels Band brought audience members to their feet, Alabama brought an intimate feel to the 15,000-seat arena. Fans were led in sing-alongs, hand claps and arm movements by frontman Owen.
Fans roared with excitement as Alabama stepped onto the stage and began its first song “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have A Fiddle in the Band).” The song was able to feature a vast mix of the band’s various talents — including lively fiddle playing — while the night was fresh.
Some of the most exciting moments of the night came from the band’s own interest in its fans, proving how much each member cared about the audience.
Several audience members held bright signs that caught the band’s attention. One woman’s sign said she was celebrating her 50th birthday at the show and another was at her 50th Alabama concert.
Owen invited each of the fans with signs to come up on stage to have their posters signed and request a song. Each fan asked to stay onstage for their personal favorites including “Feels So Right,” “Roll On” and “Christmas in Dixie.”
Throughout the night, the band continued to take requests from the audience. For less popular songs like “Katy Brought My Guitar Back Today,” Owen relied on a fan to sing the majority of the lyrics.
All fans got the opportunity to sing with the band, though, as Owen led sing-a-longs after every song finished. The band played a mini reprise of the song solely for audience members to sing alone. It allowed many fans to feel as if they were singing one on one with the band.
The show remained extremely interactive as band members tossed guitar picks and personal items into the front rows for fans to catch. At the end of the night, they were throwing t-shirts into the crowd as well.
Judy Brooks came to the show as a present for her father, and said she “loved” the audience engagement.
“I think it made the band connect more with the audience,” Brooks said. “It was really special.
Richman saw many connections throughout the night to Alabama’s act in Las Vegas, which included a lot of audience participation. While he thought the band was lively and interacted well with the fans, he believes that the audience could have brought more energy to the show.
“I didn’t think the audience was great at interacting back. If you noticed, during the sing a longs it was pretty quiet,” Richman said.
Alabama carried the show with honesty and poise. Two of the remaining original members of the band, Owen and bass player Teddy Gentry, shared stories with the audience about their childhood together. The two bandmates and cousins recalled picking cotton throughout their childhood on the cotton farm they grew up on.
“That’s who we are and who we’ll always be,” Owen said resolutely before breaking into “High Cotton.”
While staying true to its roots, the band expressed interest and gratitude for many different people across the country. The night held a rather patriotic theme as both the Charlie Daniels Band and Alabama saluted “current, present and future” men and women serving in the armed forces through song.
Additionally, Alabama asked fans to “say a prayer” for those working in cancer research at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The band sang “Angels Among Us” as a tribute to the efforts to fight against childhood cancer.
For many audience members, the night was the first time they had seen Alabama live, despite being fans for years. Corrine Horne said she grew up listening to the band, but was only able to experience her first Alabama concert nearing her 40th birthday. Horne said that she couldn’t narrow her favorite part of her first Alabama concert, but rather that “it was all good.”
No matter how long a person has been a fan of Alabama, the band brought energy to the Bryce Jordan Center. Audiences members clapped, stomped and jumped up and down throughout the night to one of the oldest and most decorated country bands in music history.
Wrapping up the night, the band members expressed their happiness to be on tour for the 50th anniversary and wished audience members farewell.
“We love you, Pennsylvania,” Owen shouted, with a cheer in response from the crowd.