Ronnie Milsap brought his tour through Milwaukee last night Sept. 11 at the Pabst Theater and performed songs from his legendary catalog which includes an astonishing 40 number one hits. A medley early on in the night powered through some of the best, including “Any Day Now,” during which an enthused audience sang along. Milsap was recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, representing the modern era of country music.
Milsap delivered the hits and a few laughs along the way last night. “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life” and “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For the World,” were just a couple of the highlights performed. Milsap joked about Nashville at one point when he said, “Country music was born right there in Nashville. It was murdered there, too, if you like traditional country music.” A bit later in the evening, Milsap joked about growing up blind and said he learned about braille at six, piano at nine and girls at thirteen.
Milsap took a moment to play a gospel tune titled, “Up To Zion,” from his 2009 album, “Then Sings My Soul,” and shortly after performed a great rendition of “Stranger In My House.” In memory of Ray Charles, who encouraged Milsap to push forward as a musician, Milsap performed the Hank William’s classic, “You’re Cheatin’ Heart.” Milsap gave the audience a short story of how he met Charles backstage at a concert and performed a couple songs for him, and how that meeting changed his life.
Of course no Ronnie Milsap concert would be complete without “Smoky Mountain Rain,” and last night in Milwaukee an exceptional version was performed. The crowd was not shy about expressing their joy over hearing the signature tune. When Milsap gave a moment to express his love of America and those who fight to keep it free, the crowd rose to their feet during an emotionally charged rendition of “America The Beautiful.” It was an appropriate way to wrap up the night.
Opening up for Ronnie Milsap was Milwaukee native, and Wisconsin Area Music Industry singer-songwriter of 2014, Nora Collins, who has been preparing her entire career for a performance of this level. Last night Collins exuded class, charm and a level of sophistication beyond her 20 years and her performance was gutsy and spunky with vibrant moments of sass and sweetness, all the elements that make her such a force to be reckoned with in the Milwaukee country music scene. Nora’s fans know and love her because her songs are so aligned with themes of struggle, consequences and pain that exist at the core of what real country music is about.
Nora Collins performed seven songs during her half hour set, including her original songs “Nothing To Do With Me” and “Harley” from her most recent CD, “Only The Beginning.” Nora also performed a spirited version of an original song she debuted this summer, “I’ll Be Gone.” The audience gave Nora a really appreciative round of applause after she closed her set with a version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that simply sparkled with energy. “Jolene” has become a signature cover song for Collins this summer and she’s found a way to make it uniquely her own. Collins performs next at Rock Be Their Voice in Milwaukee on Sept. 13.