After 36 years, this “travelin’ band” continues to entertain and sell out venues as they did on this evening in Manistee.
The Makwa Endaat Event Center, inside the Little River Casino and Resort, seats 1,600 people. For tonight’s show, all 1,600 seats are sold out with a standing room only crowd along the outer perimeter of the venue as Sawyer Brown is about to begin.
With a career spanning 36 years, Sawyer Brown has no shortage of material to make a concert setlist. For good measure, they add a few covers from other artists.
Opening the show with their 1997 hit song, “Six Days On The Road,” lead singer Mark Miller comes to the stage dancing and shuffling from one side to the other as he pumps up the crowd for a night of upbeat country dance hits. The band plays on into their second song, “The Boys And Me,” joining Mark in dancing around the stage.
With the crowd’s enthusiasm up as they dance at their seats, the guys feed off the energy and keep the show rocking along. However, for a moment, they slow the show’s pace down a bit as they sing two of their softer ballads, “The Walk” and “All These Years.” By the reactions on Mark’s face, you can almost sense a personal connection to these tracks making them all them more heartfelt.
Mark takes a moment and asks the audience how many had seen Sawyer Brown in concert before. Only about 20 percent of the room raises their hand, which surprised the band. Mark jokes that the rest of the crowd needs to get out more, to which the room responds with laughs and cheers.
He speaks about their time on Star Search and how he explains to his kids about how they were the first winner of the Vocal Group award.
He then leads the band into their debut single from 1985 that also became their first #1 hit song, “Step That Step.” As the music starts and Mark begins jumping and spinning in circles on stage, the crowd moves up to get a closer look.
Mark straps up his guitar and tells the crowd how he has been married to his wife for 26 years, and she has kept asking him to write a song for her. He follows by singing “Smokin’ Hot Wife” from the band’s current album, Travelin’ Band.
In 2005, country supergroup Alabama was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. During their induction, they had asked the guys from Sawyer Brown to sing a song of theirs that they now add to their shows. The chosen song is “Dixieland Delight.”
Along with the band having their musical talents, Gregg and Shayne showcase their singing talents as they both take command of the center stage with Gregg entertaining the crowd with his version of the Joe Walsh cover, “Life’s Been Good.” Shayne takes the lead next on “Rock ‘N Me” by the Steve Miller Band.
Mark concludes this part of the show with his thankful dedication to the crowd for supporting the band over the past 36 years. The crowd erupts in applause as the band plays “Thank God For You” before leaving the stage.
As the guys reenter the stage to the screaming fans for an encore, they rock out with “What I Like About You” by The Romantics and “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield.
The show ends with a Sawyer Brown song, “Some Girls Do,” from their 1992 The Dirt Road album.
Although a significant portion of the crowd had never been to a Sawyer Brown show before, during their lengthy career, it was apparent they, at least, knew the music as they sang along throughout the show. With the dancing and singing, it was evident the band had earned many new fans.
With the direction that country music is traveling today, not much music beyond the past five or six years is broadcast on the radio airwaves these days, causing a lot of country music from the past to be forgotten or hard to find.
The band is a joy to watch on stage. They work together easily, crafting a tight performance. The years together for Mark and bandmates Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard, Jim Scholten, Joe Smyth, Shayne Hill are obvious. The bandmates are friends who share a passion and drive to give their very best on stage every night.
After all these years, we the fans and friends of Sawyer Brown thank you for coming to our town and entertaining us as you do, as a “Travelin’ Band.”
Sawyer Brown setlist:
1. Six Days On The Road
2. The Boys And Me
3. This Time
4. Cafe On The Corner
5. The Walk
6. Drive Me Wild
7. (This Thing Called) Wantin’ And Havin’ It All
8. Hard To Say
9. This Time
10. All These Years
11. Mission Temple Fireworks Stand
12. Step That Step
13. Betty’s Bein’ Bad
14. Smokin’ Hot Wife
15. Dixieland Delight – Alabama cover
16. The Dirt Road
17. Life’s Been Good – Joe Walsh cover
18. Rock’ N Me – Steve Miller Band
19. The Race Is On
20. Thank God For You
21. Encore – What I Like About You – The Romantics cover
22. Encore – Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield cover
23. Encore – Some Girls Do