Concert Review: The Grand Ole Opry

Stage view of the Grand Ole Opry

You cannot not attend the Grand Ole Opry when visiting Nashville, TN. A concert, yes, but also a live radio show.

The longest running radio broadcast show, in fact.

If you didn’t know, many music legends from the past and currently on the charts got their start at the Grand Ole Opry, now held at the 4,000 seat Grand Ole Opry House nine miles east of downtown Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry bills itself as the show that has made country music famous. It’s also the spot where music legends are born.

This is how a “concert” at the Grand Ole Opry works (straight from their website!): “Unlike a typical concert, the Opry presents eight or more artists on each show, giving the audience a sample of each artist’s musical style.”

Ok, that’s kind of what I thought going in and later confirmed as I did more homework to write this review. You can listen to the Grand Ole Opry on local radio WSM 650 AM and through the internet so theoretically I could listen and review. Several times a week, if I wanted. But the live show and experiencing in person offers a far different feel and more palpable response. But, since a number of acts took the stage for a song or two, don’t worry, I won’t burden you with a review of everyone who stepped on stage.

I can tell you this – a who’s who of old time country music stars turned out for the Feb. 28, 2020 airing of the Grand Ole Opry and attending fans who tune in (not just on the radio) to country western, country music and bluegrass sure got their ticket’s worth.

Sister Hazel on stage at the Grand Ole Opry
Sister Hazel

Sister Hazel

Admittedly, I believe I had only heard of Sister Hazel. (Sounds odd to say that as I cannot testify in a court of law but the name rings a bell.) I am not an avid country music fan though my wife has really taken to the genre thus I have naturally started to enjoy it more, though I prefer the country rock sounds of today’s modern acts like Brad Paisley.

Then they played their hit song, “All for You.”. Oh, that’s Sister Hazel. I really need to get with the program and start learning and knowing various mainstream bands. They only played two songs and this multi-platinum group from Florida made it clear why they sell so many records. They did a great set despite the rather abbreviated time on stage.

Rhonda Vincent Nominated to the Opry

The widely known Bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent was delighted to play “Like I Could,” her recent #1 Bluegrass single and after her two song set, Grand Ole Opry legend Jeannie Seely stopped her from leaving and asked Vincent if she’d like to be the next member of the Grand Ole Opry, to obvious surprise and delight. Honestly, I had never heard of Vincent but being present for the honor was certainly special and put her on my radar. I find Bluegrass a far better product live then listening at home and would have little issue attending a Rhonda Vincent show.

Rhonda Vincent celebrating her nomination to the Grand Ole Opry
Bluegrass singer Rhonda Vincent (L) celebrates her Grand Ole Opry membership nomination with Jeannie Seely (center), sister group The Whites and singer Connie Smith (R)

Of course, Vincent said yes and her induction ceremony takes place on March 24.

Smithfield

Smithfield more or less opened the evening after long timer Opry member Connie Smith sang an old tune of hers and introduced the Smithfield twosome from Texas as “one’s to watch.” I see why. Smithfields consist of Trey Smith and Jennifer Fielder as primary members and their modern country rock flair should resonate pretty quickly among the masses.

Kalie Shorr

Kalie Shorr of Portland, ME was performing at the Opry two years to the day of her debut and this young singer probably trying to follow in the footsteps of Taylor Swift likely has a pretty successful career in front of her. She sang “World Keeps Spinning” a song she penned after the death of her sister from an overdose. Country music I have learned is less about the instrumentation and more about the lyrics, something I fully understood with this pretty powerful and resonating song.

I’ll end the review of the acts here and move on the Grand Ole Opry experience overall.

Stage view of Kalie Shorr at Grand Ole Opry
Singer Kalie Shorr

What’s it like at the Grand Ole Opry?

Indeed, the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts live and those who attend represent the studio audience. Commercials pepper the evening often read live by MC / disc jockey Eddie Stubbs. A thick red curtain opens and closes several times throughout as the show moves from segment to segment.  A 15 minute break ensues after an hour. You don’t get much better in terms of acoustics at the Grand Ole Opry. To see a full concert here would delight the most ardent of concert goers so if I can indulge (and if you’re interested) let’s rundown a quick history of the Grand Ole Opry.

A Little Bit of Grand Ole Opry History

The Grand Ole Opry began in 1925 as a barn dance and moved to the historic Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville 1943 where it remained until 1974. The Grand Ole Opry House (where I saw the Grand Ole Opry) has hosted the Grand Ole Opry since 1974 and today broadcasts three shows a week from February through October. The Grand Ole Opry resides at the Ryman Auditorium during the other three months of the year. The intimate and classy Ryman, by the way, does hold full concerts and I missed Collective Soul by three days!

The Grand Ole Opry House sits right off the state route 155 in Nashville in front of the Opry Mills mall and next door to the Gaylord Opryland Resort. It is an impressive place though my initial mental picture was far from reality. It looks quite modern and the mall, resort and overall urban feel didn’t fit but as I thought about it, the location works.

Outside view of the Grand Ole Opry House
Grand Ole Opry House

Attending the Grand Ole Opry

Purchasing tickets to the Grand Ole Opry was easy enough. Similar to any other venue as I picked my seats online with varying costs based on where you sat. Because (at the time) I was unfamiliar with the Grand Ole Opry and had an idea of how it works but was not sure I used their “Chat” system. Unfortunately, the person behind the screen didn’t exactly make me feel welcome and in terms of a critique with Grand Ole Opry communications I’d suggest they find someone with a bit of personality.  The answer to my question is on YOUR WEBSITE! I know, I know why did I ask then? Because it was part of a broader conversation I was trying to have that ultimately felt like pulling teeth.

At any rate, hopefully you can find this useful to grab tickets on your own and understand what to expect as a first timer without dealing with their front office.

In terms of music, the Grand Ole Opry symbolizes about as historical place as you can get. Nashville bleeds music history and the city houses all sorts of music Hall of Fames and museums. The great Johnny Cash is well revered here and if you can sit back on any of the 4,000 seats at the Grand Ole Opry House and imagine who has walked through these halls and played on stage (a piece of stage from the Ryman was brought over and stands out as a circle on center stage at the Opry House) a total sense of awe and wonderment takes over.

Regardless of the music genre you lean towards attending a live showing of the Grand Ole Opry will not disappoint and you never know who might show up not listed on the playbill and sing a song or two.

Maybe I’ll experience that next time. Yep, next time. My time in Nashville was short but long enough for me to recognize the need to return for a full tour. And another stop at the Grand Ole Opry.

Introducing all the artists who performed on Feb. 28, 2020 at the Grand Ole Opry:

  • Connie Smith
  • Smithfield
  • Mike Snider
  • Jeannie Seely
  • The Whites
  • Rhonda Vincent
  • Bill Anderson
  • Kalie Shorr
  • Sister Hazel
  • Steve Wariner
  • Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
  • Charles Esten