The News from Cincinnati

My dad was a natural singer, and he loved old-time romantic songs, numbers like “Let the Rest of the World Go By” (with lines like “With someone like you, a pal so good and true”). I was reminded of him on Saturday evening at Music Hall when Garrison Keillor sang the song as part of the live national broadcast from Cincinnati of A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION.

I guess that my dad and I aren’t the only ones who like nostalgic numbers like that, because Music Hall was sold out — you read that right, sold out. Our symphony has a hard time getting 2,000 people to come to Over-the-Rhine on a Saturday evening, but Keillor’s blend of old-timey music, folksy stories and comedy sketches (we heard a “Guy Noir” detective story about working security at Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving and a very funny bit about the “Association of Former English Majors” involving a woman who throws over her rich boyfriend for an erudite waiter who knows that “rubensesque” is the correct way to spell and pronounce the word) was enough to attract more than 3,400 people to sit, without a real intermission, paying rapt attention to the gangly entertainer.

The music was great — Keillor’s house band, The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band, is full of virtuoso players, and they were augmented by Sam Bush on the mandolin and Buddy Emmons on the pedal-steel guitar. There was also a virtuoso guitar picker from the hills of Virginia (his name wasn’t listed in the program) who told Keillor he was so honored to be playing with these great musicians. (It would have been nice to have some Cincinnati players onstage, but maybe another time.)

Keillor’s “Lake Wobegone” monologue was just so-so, about folks hanging out around a bonfire on the night after Thanksgiving. His stories usually drift and come back to a point, but this one just seemed to drift. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to watch him spin these tales in front of a microphone with no notes in hand. He’s truly a genius of storytelling.

The other way Keillor endears himself to audiences when he’s on the road is to stuff the broadcast with local references. He clearly loved performing in Music Hall; he told the organizers from WVXU-FM that the 1878 concert hall is the only venue he’d consider in Cincinnati. He reminisced about late guitarist Chet Atkins talking about coming to Cincinnati to sing on WLW radio back in the late 1940s or early 1950s, staying at the YMCA. He mentioned Doris Day (who started out in life as Doris Kappelhoff from Cincinnati), Roy Rogers (who was born here as Leonard Slye) and did a funny riff on King Records’ Syd Nathan, whose judgment about what would succeed in the 1950s Pop recording business always seemed to be one step away from charmed success.

It was good to see Music Hall filled to the rafters, and a reminder that a diverse mix of entertainment could be another answer to bringing back life to Over-the-Rhine. And that’s the news from Cincinnati.

— RICK PENDER

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One Comment on “The News from Cincinnati”

  1. Every Cincinnatian Says:

    We listened to the show both Saturday and Sunday. Now, we’re hearing “We gather together to talk about our neighbors…” play over and over in our heads. In addition to a diverse mix of entertainment, a diverse mix of venues may certainly be part of the solution to bringing life back to over-the-rhine, our city and our neighborhoods. Heck, probably not! Let’s keep: 1) transferring control of our public assets to quasi-/non-governmental entities; 2) spending our money providing superficial changes to public spaces; and 3) using our money to erect huge, strictly event-driven, cement structures on the most valuable, economically viable land in our city.


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