By JILL AUGER
The Billy Dean concert Friday night at the Sundance Ampitheatre was filled with good music, a great atmosphere, and superb entertainment.
The performance began with an unexpected guest, Verlin Thompson, a songwriter from Nashville. The original show was supposed to include David Gates, formerly the lead singer of the group Bread. However, his performance was cancelled at the last minute.
Thompson’s southern style and sincerity was a wonderful addition to the show. Thompson sang songs like “Lucky Dog,” Johnny Cash-style, and told stories about singing at the KOA campgrounds that seemed too country to be true.
Each song had a story to tell whether it was a funny song, a gospel song or a healing song, and the song’s meaning came through in the expressions and musical style as well as the words.
Dean’s performance was delayed, but the audience was ready and waiting when he stepped onto the stage. I didn’t know Dean, but being one who enjoys country music, I found that I knew a lot of his songs.
The vocals of Dean were amazing as well. He had a soft but solid voice. His voice is deep but he can hit the higher notes without any strain.
Dean added so much to make the show more personal to the small audience that filled only a little more than half of the theatre. Dean’s rendition of “If There Hadn’t Been You,” said instead, “If There Hadn’t Been Utah.” The crowd loved it.
Dedicating songs to his 3-year old daughter, Hannah, and 5-year old son, Elijah who were in the audience, and allowing a couple celebrating an anniversary to be recognized and come up on stage made him seem more like a real, down-to-earth person instead of a big celebrity. At times, however, he seemed a little too into his fame by some of the comments he made.
The best part of the show was when Dean told about the young Sundance employee, Cameron Court, who picked him up from the airport and who wanted to be a singer.
Dean allowed Court to come up on stage and sing an entire solo. Court’s voice was fantastic, and he seemed like a natural. For being pulled straight out of the audience, he handled it with great charisma and was very gracious to Dean for allowing him the opportunity.
Dean was accompanied by a nine-piece string orchestra from Salt Lake City who played wonderfully.
Although many were disappointed that Gates was not singing, the talent was clear in every performer of the night. Dean was a great entertainer with a tremendous stage presence. There was a good range of music, but Dean’s style is more soft love songs than hoe-downs and hillbilly rock.