Alison Krauss & Union Station @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 4th November 2011

Billed as The Paper Airplane Tour, featuring Jerry Douglas, tonight is the opening date on the UK leg of Alison Krauss and Union Station’s tour. As expected of a Friday night, the centre of Birmingham is gridlocked with traffic, but I manage to get to the symphony hall with a few minutes to spare. For a small UK Tour I’m surprised that a Tour T-shirt is on sale, but at £25 it’s not selling that well, but there’s also a mug and bag for those with smaller budgets.

The seat tonight is excellent, but I’m surprised that the seats on either side of me remain empty throughout the show, despite this being a sell-out. With no support, the lights dim at 8 o’clock and the band walks out. There are mumblings amongst various members of tonight’s audience about whether Robert Plant will make a guest appearance, given his recent connections with Alison, and it’s fair to say despite being a huge act in her native America, outside she’s not enjoyed the biggest audience, and without her recent pairing with Robert it’s hard to imagine her selling out the large venues on this tour.
However, the talent before us and musicality is at times breath-taking. With the voice of an angel, pure and clear Alison is mesmerising, and she’s also an incredible fiddle player. The Union Station are equally talented and they play with the ease that you’d expect after some 20 odd years playing together (hard to believe that Alison Krauss is 39)

There’s an introduction of each band member during the night, with a little conversation between them and Alison about what they’ve been doing in England since landing two days ago, and this varies from taking pictures at a museum in London to finding an amazing coffee machine!

Vocal duties are shared with Dan Tyminski and Ron Block and a solo section by Jerry Douglas who plays a wonderful dobro, and takes delight in shining it’s stainless belly around the crowd.

Bluegrass, country call it what you will, but these talented musicians are a joy to watch and in what could be argued is the best venue for sound and acoustics their craft simply comes to life.

There are no criticisms at all tonight, the set is just under two hours, and is gone within a flash, and no sadly Mr Plant did not appear, but it’s is arguable he has increased her audience and we are very grateful for that.

Review _ Glenn Raybone

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