For 10 years now, Dave Rowley, Ryan Sather and Damon Dotson have entertained audiences at the Pearson Lakes Art Center with a Christmas show. This year, there were a few changes; most designed to enhance the traditional show.
First of all, we missed Dotson. He and his wife are expecting their first child at any moment, so they could not make the trip up to Okoboji for the rehearsals and show. Dave and Ryan rounded up some good friends — all outstanding musicians — to fill the gap and bring us an evening of wonderful yuletide music.
Joining Rowley and Sather on stage were: drummer Gary Lambert, horn player Bryan Moore, singer/guitarists Joe Cuttell and Adam Layman. With a stage loaded with that much talent, we in the sold-out audience knew we were in for a real treat.
Not only is Sather an accomplished musician on keyboards and vocals, but his talent at arranging music is extraordinary. He took all of our favorite holiday songs and gave them a new more upbeat format and blended the various instruments perfectly.
The musicians opened with great harmony as they sang "So this is Christmas …" with a great sax solo by Moore.
Although it was a beautiful, almost balmy evening outside, Layman was joined by his wife Lindsey to sing “Baby Its Cold Outside” and we knew winter was on its way.
I loved their rendition of the Kenny Loggins tune "Celebrate Me Home." "Frosty the Snowman" was performed as a blues shuffle, and I think it was the best version of that song I have ever heard. Cuttell’s brilliant guitar solo portion, coupled with Moore’s sax and Lambert’s drums, made the song spectacular. They all performed it with such vigor and enthusiasm that we could not sit still in our seats.
Rowley clearly enjoyed performing his very lively version of that silly John Denver song "Grandmother’s Feather Bed." We enjoyed it too.
Wonderful three-part harmony on a very different version of "Jingle Bells" had us all singing along.
Rowley appropriately brought out his ukulele for "Christmas Island." The song should never be done without the sound that instrument makes. Nice job, Dave!
Sather gifted us with his version of one of his father’s favorite tunes by Louis Armstrong – "What A Wonderful World." He sang and played with such feeling that the audience responded with a long ovation at its conclusion.
I really liked Rowley’s original song "Merry Christmas and Fond Memories." He wrote the song to pay tribute to the Irish part of his heritage. It caused us all to pause and reflect on our memories of Christmases past.
The show concluded with "Have a Yule That’s Cool." However, the audience was not ready to let those six musicians quit. They did two encores: the Beatles tune "All You Need Is Love" and Tom Petty’s "Christmas Time Again."
In spite of the warmer than normal weather, we all left the PLAC in the mood for Christmas. Thank you Dave, Ryan, Joe, Adam, Bryan and Gary for a superb evening. Hope to see you again next year!