“The Rolling Stones of ’90s country music.”
That’s not an accolade you hear every day but that’s still how Tom Haigh, known to ski schoolers and Sunday night revelers at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar as “Crazy Tom,” described Diamond Rio, the ’90s era country band that blasted through a soldout, hit-studded set Thursday.
“They’re like the mainline of the ’90s and early 2000s,” Haigh said.
Haigh wasn’t alone in his praise of the band, which consists of Dan Truman, Marty Roe, Jimmy Olander, Brian Prout, Gene Johnson and Dana Williams. Those same six members churned out 19 top-10 country hits, picking up 14 Grammy nominations and one win between 1991 and 2005.
That’s an impressive track record, and it showed in the band’s Cowboy performance. They were musically tight, vocally on, and energetic on stage.
While Roe held down lead vocals, with harmonies from multi-instrumentalist Johnson, bassist Williams joined the vocal track as well but also brought some electric energy to the stage. He threw up the rock ’n’ roll devil horns, shouted “Hell yeah!” into the mic and yelled things like, “I wanna hear you say ‘yee-haw.’” At one point, in reference to Nashville, Tennesee’s beloved hockey team, Williams shouted, “We just came here from Smashville!”
Although the room was so hot it felt more like the bayou than the temperate Southern city, the crowd cheered Williams’ antics. Wildly.
They also knew every word.
After smashing through hit after hit — including a medley of Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla,” Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” — the band finally broke into its first No. 1 single, “Meet in the Middle.”
Unlike some artists who have to coax the crowd into singing along, Roe stepped back from the mic and the audience took over, belting the chorus and part of the verse.
“It was insane; I couldn’t believe it. These guys are so seasoned,” Justin Smith, the Cowboy’s talent buyer, said. “They’ve been together — six of ’em — for the same story.”
Michelle Elzingre, who was in the front row, agreed.
“It’s better when it’s like that — they play off each other,” she said. “It’s not like one guy’s better than the other or they’re trying to take it away from the other guys. The young guys will do that.”
When it came time for the closing number, “Bubba Hyde,” Roe, Johnson, Williams and Olander stood together at the front of the stage, moving and playing in unison.
And then they stopped, walking off the stage with no encore.
For Elingzer and others, that was the only disappointing part of the show.
“It was good until they quit early,” Elingzer said.
But for others, like Haigh, that didn’t really matter.
“That’s OK — they’re Diamond Rio,” he said. “They can play for an hour and 25 minutes and play you every hit and it’s worth every penny.”
Haigh, who DJs country music at the Cowboy most Sundays, said he’s been playing Diamond Rio’s music for the past few weeks, knowing the band was coming. Of the group’s 20 or so top 10 hits he was surprised, he said, to find he knew seven or 10 of them “front to back.”
His experience at the show was the same. During the closer his wife asked him if he knew the “Bubba Hyde.”
“I said, ‘Give me a second and I’ll know every word,’” Haigh recalled. “And that’s exactly what happened. I knew every word.” ￼