Country heavy-hitters Oak Ridge Boys to play the Vilar in Beaver Creek
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What: Oak Ridge Boy’s “Shine the Light on Christmas.”
When: Satuday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center.
Cost: $85 and up.
When the Grammy Award-winning Oak Ridge Boys are introduced on stage, the band’s spokesperson likes to joke that the group has more Christmas music than Andy Williams and Kenny Rodgers combined.
And after nearly 45 years together, several Christmas albums and EPs and 29 years of touring to perform holiday tunes, that just may be the case.
“The Christmas tour has become the biggest part of our year every single year,” said Richard Sterban, bass vocalist with the Oak Ridge Boys. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Sterban, who had previously played with Elvis Presley, joined the Oak Ridge Boys in 1972, and is perhaps best known for the outlandishly low line “giddy up oom poppa oom poppa mow mow” in the band’s biggest hit “Elvira.” However, he notes that it isn’t just his signature line, or even his vocals as a whole that make the group special.
“It takes all four of us to create the success that is the Oak Ridge Boys,” Sterban said. “Each guy brings something different to the table. That’s part of our appeal, the fact that we’re so different, but we respect the differences between the four of us.”
Beyond that, they’ve built a strong camaraderie.
“We realized a long time ago that we need each others,” Sterban said. “There’s a true brother hood and a friendship that is second to none between us. I think we even get along better now that we’re older than we ever did before.”
The band’s career
The Oak Ridge Boys, who are Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, are known for vocal harmonies and began in the 1940s as a gospel group until transitioning into country music.
The band’s gospel background is an influence on the band’s Christmas music and performances, but it was the record label that recognized the potential in holiday music.
After recording and releasing “Y’all Come Back Saloon” in 1977, the label asked the band to produce a Christmas album. That album, “Christmas,” became the 13th Christmas album to be certified gold. Since then, 3 of their albums have been certified gold.
Following the album’s release, Kenny Rodgers asked the Oak Ridge Boys to join him for a Christmas tour, and afterward, according to Sterban, the band thought, “We can do this,” and launched its own tour.
The band’s most recent album, “17th Avenue Revival,” was released in March of 2018, and was produced by Dave Cobb. Cobb is one of the most prestigious and sought-after producers in country music, having worked with artists such as Chris Stapleton, The Zac Brown Band and more. The album also features songs by some of country’s strongest songwriters, such as Brandy Clark and Vince Gill.
“Eleven years ago, we did a project called ‘The Boys are Back’ and (Cobb) produced it,” Sterban said. “He took us down roads musically that we’d never traveled before, and this time around, we wanted to do something special to commemorate our induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and we knew he was they guy.”
Sterban said that since Cobb is in such high demand, the band had to wait its turn to work with him, but once they began working together, Cobb had a brilliant idea. He asked the band to consider the sounds of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and more rockabilly and soul musicians in order to capture the feeling of going to church — a concept that is sonically present throughout the album.
The name of the album is multifaceted as well. It not only refers to the revival of one’s soul and spirit in church, but also the revival of the RCA recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee, which was almost demolished. Due to the studio’s history, the music community in Nashville rallied to save the studio and began bringing big acts such as the Oak Ridge Boys and Dave Cobb in to produce records.
Following the success of “17th Avenue Revival,” Dave Cobb has agreed to work on the band’s next album, which is in the preliminary stages.
Additionally, the band was a favorite of the late President George H. W. Bush (who proved his love for the band by requesting they play deep-cuts rather than famous hits when they met, and will perform “Amazing Grace” at his funeral.
The Oak Ridge Boys will bring new material and classic Christmas tunes to the Vail Valley on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
The performance is part of their “Shine the Light on Christmas” tour, and will begin with them playing some of their classic songs — fear not, “Elvira” is on the set list — before transitioning into Christmas songs.
“We capture all of the aspects of Christmas in the show,” Sterban said. “There’s a romantic element to Christmas, a fun element, a religious element …”
But the show is much more unique than a greatest hits-Christmas fusion show.
Santa will also make an appearance during the show, and will interact with the band and, during a period in which the show is paused, the audience. Each child present will have the opportunity to visit with Santa. The show will also feature what Sterban called the “rocking chair segment,” in which all four Oak Ridge Boys sit in rocking chairs and talk to the audience about their careers, music and Christmas, with the intention to allow the audience to get to know the performers better and to add a spiritual and sacred element to the show.
After all, the goal of the show is to shine the light of Jesus in today’s dark world.
“We’ve worked hard to make a great show, and we’re looking forward to coming to Vail,” Sterban said. “We plan to have a great day.”
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