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Review: Gary Allan at the Ryman

Gary Allan, Jack Ingram and the Eli Young Band Ryman Auditorium Nashville, Nov. 12

Three hours and change went by in a flash in a seamless concert package that expertly featured three complementary acts. If you’re looking for bang for the buck, you can’t do much better.

Headliner Gary gets the benefit of two opening acts that can certainly raise the roof as well as the testerone level, which seems to be the fundamental idea. But the three acts managed to enhance rather than conflict with each other.

Texas-based EYB, best known for “Always the Love Songs,” kicked things off with a 25-minute set that included their big hit and “Guinevere.” The guys play it loud, hard and good, with a confident attitude and, best of all, don’t make the annoying opening act mistake of trying too hard to “whip you into a frenzy.” The music speaks well enough, thanks. The set seemed to lean too heavily toward mid-tempo tunes, but was otherwise solid.

Jack Ingram is the true revelation of the evening. He commands the stage the minute he walks out, looking dapper and cool in a black jacket and pressed pants (you wish more stars would dress, you know, like a “star” instead of looking like they woke up an hour before show time). Jack’s set was extremely well-paced, mixing some easygoing, humorous banter with hits like “That’s a Man,“ “Love You” and “Barefoot and Crazy,” which he actually performed sans shoes. For his current single, “Seeing Stars,” Jack brought out his duet partner, the incomparable Patty Griffin (probably shouldn’t expect that at every tour stop, though). Jack’s band, featuring ace guitarist Jedd Hughes and a drummer who resembles something out of That Thing You Do, can definitely kick it as well.

Gary Allan drew screams and standing applause as soon as his name was announced. His set kicked off with “Get off on the Pain,” the title track to his upcoming new album. He then launched into a sea of hits that included “Best I Ever Had,” “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful,” his debut single “Her Man” and more, all punctuated by the trademark raspy voice. You’re reminded of just how many hits he’s accumulated over the years while remaining vastly under appreciated by the industry.

Fans got a couple of bonus treats when Gary brought out his daughter Dallas to play keyboards on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and welcomed Jack Ingram for “Alright Guy.” The perfectly executed guitar intros helped fans identify the songs immediately, even before Gary sang the first note, and the crowd proved more than eager to sing along. Gary brought it all home with an electrifying stage presence and a don’t-stop-till-you-get-enough energy level. And for an artist who’s often identified more with emotional angst and personal pain, he’s surprisingly warm onstage.