Music fans have a myriad of reasons for attending a concert. At the top is to be entertained.
The country band members of Shenandoah understand fans may have jumped through hoops to secure tickets and a night out to see them. Shenandoah’s lead singer Marty Raybon said entertaining people is the band’s top priority since its debut in 1985.
“What our quest is do everything we can to entertain folks,” Raybon said. “At the end of the show, if we can make them laugh or cry, hoot and holler, entertain them enough that they want to be a part of the show by clapping and singing along, then we (accomplished) what we came to do.”
Shenandoah performs in Ottawa at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Ottawa Memorial Auditorium as part of their 30th anniversary tour. Tickets are available at the OMA box office or online.
Fans can expect a show full of old favorites mixed with new material. The band released a new album “Reloaded” in March 2018, which features the band’s greatest hits with three new tunes: “Noise,” “That’s Where I Grew Up” and “Little Bit of Livin.’ ”
Shenandoah’s hit list is long. The band recorded 13 No. 1 hits and had 26 singles on the Billboard Hot Country charts. Shenandoah received a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and a CMA Award for “Vocal Event of the Year” for “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart,” featuring Alison Krauss. The band was the recipient of the Academy of Country Music’s coveted “Vocal Group of the Year” award.
Raybon said the Ottawa show should be a fun-filled evening.
“It is going to be high energy,” he said. “We are going to do whatever we can to relate to folks. [Ottawa] is the heartland. That is America. We try to lighten the load for everybody that comes to see us. If we can take their minds off everything in the world that is going on in their life (for two hours). If we can do that, that is actually what we came to do. Give yourself an opportunity to come out and have a good time with us. We are looking forward to it.”
Raybon relayed a couple of stories behind why the band attempts to give fans a great show. He said after a concert during their first year in rural West Virginia at a fair, a couple told them they did not pay their electric bill to come to the concert. That left an impression on the band.
“That evening when we left we all talked,” Raybon said. “We talked about what people do to make arrangements to get to shows ... what our obligations are. That was the most meaningful and most worthy talk we had as a band together. The one thing we harped on, we should never forget that. The one thing we don’t want to do is shortchange anybody, especially when it comes to entertaining and having folks come to a show we are doing.”
Another conservation revealed how powerful music is to people. He said the band’s music recalls memories of years gone by.
“It brings (back) those certain seasons of your life,” Raybon said. “You all carried me through my childhood.”
Another fan told him the band’s hit song “Mama Knows” struck a chord with him during a down period in his life. He said the fan made it to his mother’s house before she died.
“I could not help but think of the song ‘Mama Knows,’ ” Raybon said the fan told him. “Who in the world would be thinking about a country band when something like that was going on. It is not really as much of a country band or an artist, but a lyric to somebody. That is one of the reasons why — after 17 years (away) — to grasp that more than what I used to. I know music is powerful thing. It literally moves you emotionally. It can set the precedence on the mood and on the praise and worship of our holy savior.”
Raybon, who rejoined Shenandoah in 2014 after a 17-year hiatus, said those experiences draw the band members closer to fans.
“Only after I returned after those 17 years, I realized what those songs truly meant to somebody,” he said. “It is the personable aspect of doing things for people that means a great deal to them.”
Shenandoah’s resurgence after nearly 35 years of making hit music is something the band does not take for granted.
“There is a great deal of talented people that never get a chance,” Raybon said. “To be able to what we were able to do in the late 1980s and early 1990s and turnaround have the resurgence that we have had, it has been unbelievable. It goes to show you that the providence of God [means] more than anything. With the opportunities we have been given, we try to not take anything for granted.”
Raybon said fan expectations have not changed through the years.
“You try to earn their respect with great music, great records and therefore, that is why they want to come see you,” he said. “When they do come see you, you try to do everything in the world you can to entertain them and allow them to feel like and believe them guys gave everything they had for us tonight. They went the extra mile to entertain us. That means everything.”
Raybon said an amusing aspect is to see the younger generation become fans.
“It is like the Willie Nelson thing,” he said. “He is 85 and people that are 13 and 14 know his material. What is special is being out front when the show is over, you will see a sister and a brother or a mom and dad coming up with their child, who is 23 years old. They will say, ‘We grew up (listening to you). Mom and Dad would play (your music) in the car when we were going to baseball games. I heard you were coming to town, so I bought them a ticket.’ A lot of those youngsters, who are 17 and 18, are singing every single lyric. It seems like they know the whole set. That is amazing.”
Rybon works hard to read an audience and give them the right mix of music.
“Being able to adapt to what they want to hear,” he said. “A lot of times we may have an outline of what we are looking to do. Reading an audience, if you are going to be a front guy or gal in a band, that is a very nice thing to have. It is nice for strategy to be able to entertain people. You to figure out what works for them.”
Raybon said the fans make traveling worthwhile for the band.
“Those people made those arrangements to get there,” he said. “Every date is a career day. We are ready to go.”