Remember when it was all about the music, man? Last night’s surprisingly lovely documentary Nashville: On the Record is here to remind you that this show ain’t just a soap opera, it’s a soap opry!
If you’re like me – super cranky that you’ve had to wait not three but FOUR weeks to see what happens when drunk, broke-down Scarlett crawls under her piano to escape an angry crowd’s rotten tomato attack – you probably came to last night’s airing of Nashville: On the Record with a Music City sized chip on your shoulder. Fortunately, this turned out to be a beautifully crafted documentary, paying tribute to the show’s many talented songwriters with an evening of music at one of the nation’s finest venues. Thus I will withhold further bitching. Here are just five highlights:
Rah Rah Ryman! Just as the city of Nashville is the secret star of the show, the Ryman Auditorium is the secret star of Nashville: On the Record. It’s fun watching both actors and songwriters nerd out about their chance to perform within this historic theater’s hallowed walls. Just listening to their performances, you know exactly why. The acoustics are sublime. And yes, I am finally going there for the first time in June to see Elvis Costello, and yes, you should be jealous.
An excellent reminder of why we still care what happens to Scarlett Claire Bowen and Sam Palladio’s performance of “If I Didn’t Know Better” was the hands-down showstopper of the evening. Remember when Gunnar read Scarlett’s diary and made her sing this song at the Bluebird even though she lived only to support her shitty boyfriend Avery? Ah, those were the days when we rooted for Scarlett. Now that she’s turned so sour and gloomy, it’s easy to forget the magic of that moment. But the fact remains that Blondie’s quite talented and no other song better showcases the fullness of her vocal and emotional range than this bluesy number.
Yes, Hayden, we get that you’re nothing like Juliette Turns out, Ms. Panetierre has terrible stage fright and this is her first live performance. She does a lovely job with her first number, the tearjerky “Nothing in this World” (a.k.a Juliette’s requiem for her drug addicted murderess mom). Songwriters Sarah Buxton and Kate York give Hayden lots of kind encouragement in their pre-concert interview, so it’s sweet to seem them singing backup at her side like fairy godmothers. Well done, ladies.
Brain melting meta-alert! Panetierre later returns to the stage to sing – surprise – “Don’t Throw Dirt on My Grave.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is her first time performing at the Ryman Auditorium, where her character Juliette has played several times (cursed suspension of disbelief!). And yet, the song is so associated with that theater in the context of the show, because Jules belts it out right after she publicly refuses to lie about her “mistakes” while standing onstage in the Mother Church of Country Music. And then it turns out the song was written in real life before the show required a “go to hell” anthem, and so that just worked out perfectly. IT’S LIKE THIS SONG AND THIS THEATER WERE MEANT TO BE.
Not content to Layla in the cut Perhaps this forty minute documentary didn’t include every number, which would explain why Aubrey Peeples appears only in the grand finale full cast performance of “A Life That’s Good.” So maybe one of her songs got the axe? No worries, she totally makes up for the loss by emoting, gesticulating, belting out unnecessary flourishes and otherwise proving herself the Jenna Moroney of the group. In other words, the real life Layla is everything I want her to be!!