By Kellie Gormly
If You’re Gonna Play in Texas, You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band, as the famous Alabama song goes.
And likewise, if you’re Alabama and you’re gonna play at PPG Paints Arena – or anywhere, for that matter – the show wouldn’t be complete without the lively fiddle interludes, which got people in the audience dancing and clapping and stomping their feet. The fiddles are one of the best parts of an Alabama show.
Indeed, the band on March 15 started its set with the legendary song about the fiddle, and it was the perfect, energetic start to a lively and fun show – and perhaps for many people, a once-in-a-lifetime show. Alabama reunited to do this 50th-anniversary tour last year – 15 years after the band officially retired. The band’s three key members – cousins Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook – are in their late 60s, and there is no guarantee they will do another tour after this one.
Sadly, Cook – guitarist and vocalist – was absent from the Pittsburgh show. He has Parkinson’s disease and has performed many shows during this tour, but had to skip several. Hopefully, Cook can still play for a long time. Still, despite Cook’s absence, the band backing Owen and Gentry was fabulous.
Alabama’s show, which followed a fun opening acts with ’90s music by Tracy Lawrence, continued after the Texas fiddle song with classics including “Tennessee River” with backing screen images of a rushing river. Other key songs included “High Cotton,” backed by images of southern cotton fields where the band members grew up; “Love in the First Degree”; “Song of the South”; and the encore song “Mountain Music,” which Owen and Gentry sang while wearing Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys.
The most touching moment of the night came when Alabama sang its gospel classic “Angels Among Us” from 1993. The inspirational, tear-jerking song came with video images of Chinese lanterns rising into a night sky. Along with the sentimental song, band members talked about their fundraising efforts for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.