Garth Brooks was the man responsible from breaking the stigma in country music of signing up for a Las Vegas residency when he announced in 2009 he would start a string of weekend shows at Encore on the Las Vegas Strip. But to the surprise of many critics and fans, Garth, who officially came out of retirement to play the shows, did not re-ignite the wild pyrotechnic, flying harness days that allowed country music to reclaim the stadiums in the early 90’s. Instead he delivered a stripped down show featuring acoustic numbers and surprising substance.
Since then the barn doors have been flung wide, and the flow of country music talent to the theaters of Sin City has been steady. Shania Twain recently opened up her residency at Caesars Palace by driving a herd of horses down the Las Vegas Strip. Twain’s show is anything but stripped down, featuring flying motorcycles, dancing violinists, and prancing horses.
Last night Tim McGraw and Faith Hill began their stint of shows at Vegas’s Venetian, and apparently the show opens with an unveiled shot at country music’s traditionalists and two artists they hold dear: Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams. Tim and Faith’s “Soul2Soul” show opens up to Waylon’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” playing mockingly, to make light of the irony that a country duo is engaging in a full blown, ubiquitous and garish Las Vegas spectacle that attendees said was no different than Tim or Faith’s arena shows save for being shown in an 1,800-person theater.
From CMT’s Chris Willman:
The new Tim McGraw and Faith Hill show in Las Vegas gets underway with a fairly riotous joke before the headliners even make their entrance. As the lights dim inside the Venetian Theatre, the sound system blasts “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” Waylon Jennings’ gently lacerating 1975 hit decrying the glitz-ification of country.
The implicit gag is that both Hank Sr. and Waylon would keel over again if they could see just what sort of extravaganzas are being done in country’s name in Sin City 2012.
Waylon’s terse, two-chord commentary on the state of country music has become a battle cry for country music fans disenfranchised with the state of mainstream country music since its debut. The title of the song has found its way into many other songs over the years giving voice to the slow erosion of country’s roots and values. Using this song in this manner crosses and even more critical line than Tim McGraw’s country-rap cry for attention and relevancy, “Truck Yeah”.
If Tim McGraw and Faith Hill had any taste, they would pull this unveiled shot at Hank, Waylon, and millions of country music fans that believe Waylon Jennings made an important point with “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”; a point that is still relevant today, if not more relevant than ever.