Sunday, July 3, 2016

Restless Heart Delivers Transcendent Memories for Fourth of July in Bryan, Texas

The “night Restless Heart came to town” is a phrase that will be on the lips of so many residents of the Brazos Valley for weeks to come, thanks to their appearance at the Lakeside Icehouse in Bryan on Saturday, July 2. Barry Ivins and his team have long been lauded for bringing the best in Brazos Valley live music to the scenic vista. The rustic picnic tables and plastic chairs came complete with a down-home, back porch feeling, but this time he served up an especially grand surprise to start off the Fourth of July weekend. Plus, area lakeside campers (independently) threw in a few major fireworks of their own to light up the night.

The Wes Nickson Band opened the show promptly at 8:30 p.m. (don’t you love it when entertainment begins, as advertised, on time?). There were plenty of food and drink stations around because the Texas evening weather promised plenty of heat, and more of the same all night long. But once the sun set over the lake, a gentle breeze took hold in the air and Wes’ clear, strong vocals showed that he and his band were a most professional opening act destined to become headliners, probably faster than they even currently realize. The audience listened appreciatively to the band that calls New Braunfels home. RDM Audio’s James Haislet had perfect sound settings for everyone to truly enjoy the evening.

After a superfast band changeover (everything going right on a Saturday night), Restless Heart took the stage. Their tour manager had been working in the Texas heat to make sure everything was absolutely perfect and it was. What John Dittrich, Greg Jennings, Paul Gregg, Dave Innis, and Larry Stewart brought to the table last night was the history of 25 chart hits, six of which were consecutive #1 songs, five RIAA Gold albums, multiple Grammy nominations, CMA nominations and being named Top Vocal Group by the Academy of Country Music.

Now, forget the statistics and just consider that from the time the band kicked off the first song, couples began moving right on to the dance floor and didn’t leave the entire time. True to Bryan-College Station style, you saw fathers dancing with young daughters, some little cherubs scooting across the dance floor before the grownups all got out there to mess things up for them, and then you had solid gold couples who’d been married 40+ years doing some serious “boot scooting” entirely oblivious to the fact that the place was packed with every table (reserved and otherwise) filled.

With 33 years’ worth of playing and recording, these gentlemen performed with such pleasant synchronicity that you truly believed they regarded one another as highly offstage as they do onstage, another true element of value.

Larry Stewart is a lead vocalist who plays a mean acoustic guitar and he is the primary motivator to get the audience to sing along (everyone knew all the words and he knew they wanted to sing, so he encouraged it) and when to dance and when to take time out to sing a beloved RH tune, “Long Lost Friend,” just for one couple celebrating a wedding anniversary (the dance floor cleared for them) to have a special moment that night. That’s show business and that’s exactly what they delivered, precious memories all night long.

Dave Innis plays tremendous keyboards and sings; seems the only thing he can’t do, per Larry, is dance. But he can keep his real job, and he is a great songwriter, as actually are all the band members.

Paul Gregg is a bass-playing fool, that is he makes it look so easy but he’s fooling—he’s just that good that he makes it look easy, but he’s a machine. And, he sings as well, and the harmonies these players have are really exceptional and tight, exactly what you’d expect after 30+ years of music.

Greg Jennings is an old soul in a band of gently aging young men; his favorite song is “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz,” but when he plays lead guitar and sings, you’d pay to hear him sing anything he chose to. He’s played with Vince Gill’s band before so he is right at home with Restless Heart.

Singing drummers are definitely a fan favorite, and John Dittrich fills the bill in both cases. Not only is he proficient on his beloved Pearl drums with preferred Pro-Mark sticks, he sings lead on several songs, including “When She Cries."

This is the best thing about Restless Heart—everyone has a specialty and chance to be showcased on lead, sans egos, just great camaraderie and good times and better music for all to enjoy. They performed virtually every hit you’d want to hear, “When She Cries,” “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” “That Rock Won’t Roll,” “Fast Movin’ Train,” “You Can Depend on Me,” and more.

Two very special segments of the concert included a medley of greatest hits for all the headline artists who’d included Restless Heart as their opening act over the years when they were first breaking onto the scene. The brilliant montage of memories reminded you that even though they looked extremely young, they were seasoned recording and touring veterans who simply didn’t look weary for the wear, not one bit.

Then, the highlight of the evening was the performance of “Wichita Lineman,” and they dedicated the brilliant Jimmy Webb composition to Glen Campbell, who first made the song famous (see video).

There was no need for autotune, filters, sweetners or any other artificial secret sauce at the sound board; the voices of Restless Heart filled the air and the dancers filled every available space on the wood-constructed dance floor. Buy the single of “Wichita Lineman” online as you’re going to want to keep this one.

And as occasional fireworks were seen in the sky behind the lake, all was right with the world, a perfect way to begin the Independence Day holiday weekend in the Brazos Valley.

Check their tour schedule to see that they’re en route next to Prince Edward Island, then to Utah, then to Missouri, Mississippi, and back to east Texas and Colorado (and that’s just July). Look for them to return close by, in Caldwell, on September 24 at the Burleson County Fair, among other venues. Special thanks to Lakeside Icehouse in Bryan for bringing Restless Heart here.

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