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Vince Gill and wife Amy Grant brought their warm and cheery Christmas show, Amy Grant and Vince Gill: Christmas at the Ryman, to Nashville for the second of three consecutive nights on Wednesday (Dec. 19). It was an evening to fulfill anyone's Christmas list. Fans were treated to the classic tunes and hymns of the season but also received some extra gifts for their ticket price: guest performances by Sheryl Crow, gospel great CeCe Winans, blues guitarist Keb' Mo' and rising country star Eric Paslay, along with a birthday surprise for a Grand Ole Opry legend.
Amy opened the show with the welcoming message, "We're celebrating peace on earth and good will towards men." She followed with a spirited version of "Jingle Bells," which featured nifty tempo changes and a cool vocal arrangement, along with her holiday original, "Tennessee Christmas." In honor of her good friend Brenda Lee, Amy also covered Brenda's standard, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."
Vince further lightened up the evening when he took the stage. "We had a sound check around 4:15," a smiling Vince told the crowd. "I've been over at [downtown bar] Tootsie's ever since. They had half-price cocktails and karaoke." Turning serious, Vince performed a moving version of "What Child Is This?" He also got the crowd involved when he pointed to the balcony and acknowledged Grand Ole Opry legend Little Jimmy Dickens, who was celebrating his 92nd birthday. "We should sing to him," Vince announced, and proceeded to lead the audience in "Happy Birthday" as Little Jimmy stood in appreciation.
The evening featured its share of touching moments, as the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., was still in the artists' minds and hearts. Vince performed his anthemic "Go Rest High on That Mountain" in honor of the victims and their families. Amy's rendition of the hymn "El Shaddai" had the audience spellbound. Sheryl Crow joined Vince on "Run Rudolph Run," while Keb' Mo' and Vince swapped bluesy guitar licks on "Merry Christmas Baby." CeCe Winans earned well-deserved standing ovations for "O Holy Night" and "How Great Thou Art."
Amy and Vince, who harmonized on "I'll Be Home for Christmas," made endearing and charming hosts, performing with sincerity while never becoming overly sugary in their banter with the audience. Their Christmas show stands as an annual event on the holiday calendar, so if you couldn't make it this year or for Thursday night's finale, mark it down for 2013. There's no better or more entertaining way to celebrate the season.