I’ve seen Junior Brown many times, but I’ve never seen him at the Granada Theatre in Dallas, a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time. The iconic landmark is one of the anchors on lower Greenville and I was thrilled to make the drive from Fort Worth on a recent Friday. I was as intrigued by the chance to visit the classic art deco theatre as I was anticipating what I knew would be a great show from one of my favorite guitarists. My husband (who lived in Dallas for a short while before we were married) had been to the Granada many times, but had never seen Junior Brown. We both looked forward to the evening.
We appreciate the simple things. Like hassle-free parking right behind the theatre. Yeah, it cost $8, but being just a few steps from the door? Priceless. We got there in plenty of time for a nice meal next door at Sundown at Granada (you can find my review of the restaurant here tomorrow), and as we approached the theatre after dinner, we admired the classic neon marquee and stopped for a quick photo.
Inside, we marveled at the beautiful lobby, complete with art deco flourishes and a well-stocked bar.
We had seats on the front row, about 15 feet from the stage. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been seated in the front row for an anticipated performance. (However, we almost didn’t have front row seats. My husband made an error when buying the tickets online, but when he reached out by e-mail to the theatre manager and explained the problem, the seats were switched, no questions asked. Classic service, too!)
As soon as Junior Brown hit the stage, the crowd went nuts. He’s obviously got a loyal fan base in North Texas. His wife, rhythm guitarist Tanya Rae Brown, appeared on stage only to make a quick exit to fix a broken guitar string. “She’s got a broken string and she hasn’t even started yet!” joked Brown.
The set started with a nod to North Texas and a crowd favorite “Broke Down South of Dallas.” The appreciative audience sang along and enjoyed every minute. It was a treat to sit so close and watch Brown’s amazing guitar work on his signature invention – the guit-steel, a double-necked guitar with a traditional six string guitar on top and a lap steel guitar on bottom. He switched effortlessly from one to the other as the unusual instrument rested on a music stand in front of him.
He ripped through his familiar repertoire to the delight of his fans. From hilarious numbers like “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” to classics like “Doing My Job in the Highway Patrol,”
Brown was hugely entertaining. At one point he forgot the lyrics and had the audience laughing hysterically as he explained, “Just because I write ‘em, doesn’t mean I remember ‘em.” His riff during a favorite song “Just Hang Up and Drive” was very funny. “Twitter gives me the jitters,” he deadpanned.
I’ve seen Junior Brown several times over the last 20 years, and this show was as good as I can remember. His signature baritone voice is as resonant as ever and his band is tight and focused, no one more than his wife of 27 years. An awesome rhythm guitarist in her own right, she kept up with him lick for lick.
Brown’s range of genres is breathtaking. He can yodel during a Buck Owens song, switch seamlessly to spaghetti western music, take a turn with surfer music with “Pipeline” by the Ventures and then bring down the house with “Secret Agent Man.” And the encore? What else but “I Got to Get Up Every Morning Just to Say Goodnight to You!” The crowd loved it.
As we left the lobby of the theatre for a nightcap next door, Junior was surrounded by fans. He signed autographs, chatted them up and sold a few CDs, too.
Fabulous show in a fabulous venue.
We stopped for another quick pic before heading home, catching a shot of the moon next to the brightly lit marquee.
As we headed back to our car for the drive home, we passed a minivan with an open door. Tanya Rae Brown was sitting in the passenger seat, changing out of the heels she wore on stage to a comfortable pair of flats. She was waiting on Junior to join her. We stopped for a quick chat and let her know how much we enjoyed the show.
Such a memorable evening!
By Lydia Saldaña