Crystal Gayle is one of the most recognizable voices in country music and yesterday afternoon on Dec. 5 she entertained an enthusiastic sold out crowd at Milwaukee’s Northern Lights Theater inside the Potawatomi Bingo Casino. It was Gayle’s second of three scheduled shows on Tuesday and Wednesday and with less than three weeks until the holidays it was a perfect time to take a break from the stress of the season to remember the joy of the celebration, and what better way to celebrate than with a legend like Crystal singing some of the most revered songs of Christmas. Gayle even managed to squeeze in a few songs from her own legendary career, and with the help of her sister Peggy Sue, some of her older sister Loretta Lynn’s songs as well. Gayle was backed by an amazingly talented five piece band that provided perfect accompaniment to her strong and resolute vocals.
Let me begin by emphasizing again that the Northern Lights Theater is one of Milwaukee’s finest musical venues as the stage lights and sound are unequaled in the city for the size of the venue. It’s an amazingly intimate experience that only a well designed 500 seat state of the art theater can provide and we’re lucky to have this facility in Milwaukee. The stage was adorned with wreaths and flocked at both sides by Christmas trees, making the focus of the show on the music in an elegant and effective manner.
When the lights went down and the show got underway Gayle’s band did “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” “The First Noel” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by themselves to warm up the crowd in the spirit of Christmas. Snow began to fall from the back of the stage when Gayle finally emerged from the darkness and the wonderful illusion set a beautiful tone for the rest of the night. Crystal sang “Winter Wonderland” and although the grass might still be green in Milwaukee, inside the theater, for a brief moment in time, it was as cozy as sitting around an open fire with family during the dead of winter.
After running through festive renditions of “Let It Snow” and “Silver Bells,” Gayle took a detour from Christmas songs to sing a pair of her well known songs, “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For” and “Talking In Your Sleep.” A few songs later “Memories Are Made Of This” gave band member Jay Patten a moment to feature a song from his album Crystal Nights to the crowd. The song, featuring Crystal Gayle, can be downloaded at this link for 99 cents.
Things turned acoustic at this point in the show, and to start things off Crystal performed “Ready For The Times To Get Better,” a 1978 song that was Gayle’s fourth number one hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Next Peggy Sue assisted Crystal in singing their sister Loretta’s hit and genre defining iconic song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and it was truly one of the epic moments of the afternoon concert. The Christmas songs flowed freely from this point on, and the sisters sang “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” “Oh Christmas Tree,” and even for a moment sang “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” among other well beloved Christmas favorites.
“Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” also made it onto the set list. The song was Loretta Lynn’s first number one song and was released in late 1966 but didn’t top the charts until a few months later in early 1967. On a side note Loretta went on to win the CMA award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1967, becoming the first female country artist to win the award.
Of course the final epic moment of the concert came when Crystal sang “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” near the end of the show. The song was from the album “We Must Believe In Magic” and was released in 1977. It has over time become synonymous with Crystal Gayle and was a crossover hit for her, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song won Gayle a Grammy in 1978 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and “Magic” went platinum, making Crystal part of history with the distinction of being the first female country singer to achieve that sales ranking.
For more information about Crystal Gayle please visit her official website. For more information about Northern Lights Theater please visit their official website. For more information about John Schulze Photography please hit like at the official Facebook page or visit the official website.