Tonight officially began “fair season” in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. At least for me this was the start date. I attended my first concert for the year at one of our area fairs. The first of many, and over the next several weeks, you will be hearing about all of them. This was the Greene County Fair in Greeneville, Tennessee. The artists on stage – Love and Theft.
This duo is not new to me. I’ve seen them before, and I’ve liked their music for as long as they have been together. The last time they were opening for Jason Michael Carroll at Kingsport’s Fun Fest. Tonight, they took the stage alone, and their fans could not have been happier. Greene County isn’t one of the areas largest fairs. And with it being a Tuesday night, and Greeneville public schools starting their 2012-2013 school year in the morning, it should not have been a huge surprise that the crowd wasn’t all that big. But, I don’t think the size of the audience made any difference at all to Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, who worked very hard and made sure the audience got the show they came for.
I always spend as much time watching (and photographing) the band that backs the stars, as I do the stars themselves. I love seeing groups that work together, and include the band in their performance. Stephen and Eric definitely work as well with their musicians as any artists I’ve ever watched. Working with Stephen and Eric are Alana Rocklin on bass, Jason Jordan on electric guitar, and Hubert Payne on drums. Each musician has an active part in the performance, and definitely has his and her place on stage.
With “Angel Eyes” just now jumping into the number one spot on Billboard’s Country Chart, it was the perfect time for their fans to enjoy their live performance of not only that song, but many of their favorite Love and Theft songs from recent years. I really don’t think it will matter how many great songs these guys record, my favorite will most likely always be “Dancing in Circles.” In addition to their own songs, they threw in several made famous by Johnny Cash, and a few other older songs the crowd could sing along with. It made it a fun night for everyone.
I spent a little time with their merchandise girl, Stephen’s sister Rebecca. We had a chance to talk about a few things coming up for Love and Theft over the next couple of months. Stephen and Eric will be heading out on tour with Jake Owen and Florida Georgia Line early this Fall. We don’t have any dates for that one yet, but I’m sure if you keep an eye on their web pages, the info you need will be up there fairly soon. Rebecca also told me that the next single for the duo will be “Running Out of Air.” Eric and Stephen also told the crowd that just before they sang the song as part of their show.
I asked her how they came up with the name Love and Theft, and she told me they took it from the name of one of Bob Dylan’s albums. I did some checking, and found out it was in fact Bob Dylan’s 31st studio album, released on Sept. 11, 2001. Most of us remember that when this group started out, they were a trio. Now that they are a duo, I asked if anyone ever questioned ‘which one of them is Love and which one is Theft.’ Rebecca told said, “They will tell you Stephen is Love and Eric is Theft.” Maybe when she said that, my next question should have been “Why?”.
They have a number one single on radio, they played their hearts out for the audience, and they still took the time to hang out afterwards and sign autographs for everyone who waited in line for one. They did this when I saw them at Fun Fest, too, and I was really glad to see that at this point in their careers they are still so willing to show their appreciation to the fans who came out to watch them perform. Thanks too, to their road manager, David Walje, for not pushing them along too quickly so that they could talk to the fans in the autograph line. Their entire group were friendly, nice to the fans, and made it apparent to everyone that they really wanted to be there for us.
Keep an eye out for the announcement of the tour dates and locations. I know if they are back in this area, I will be in the audience. To any of you who missed tonight’s show, I hope you will plan on being part of that audience, too. And remember, when “Running Out of Air” is released to local radio, they need your help! So keep your Radio Request Lines full of your requests for this great new single.
Now, here are a few more pictures form tonight’s show at the Greene County Fair.
It’s been a fun night – but a very long night. Time for me to get some sleep. But I’ll be back with more soon! And, to all of you who are waiting for an e-mail from me. I know I owe you one, and I am way behind with my mail right now, but give me a day or two and I’ll get myself caught up! I appreciate so many of you writing, and I will get you answered soon!