John Denver Tribute Concert and Colorado Hall of Fame induction at 1STBANK Center, 4/21/11

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Jim Narcy

JOHN DENVER'S ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
Olivia Newton-John, Michael Martin Murphey and more
04.21.11 | 1STBANK Center

John Denver fans -- and let's be clear, that accounted for pretty much everyone in the building, save for perhaps the odd service employee -- got their money's worth last night at 1STBANK Center, even if the best performance of the evening came from Denver himself from nearly two decades ago.

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Jim Narcy
The night began with the Boulder Philharmonic orchestra offering up a stirring John Denver overture, setting the ideal tone for the entire evening, which was imbued with a stately elegance and deliberately paced with the measured precision of a televised event, like something you might see on PBS. To that end, there were certain production cues, that, while they might lend themselves to making great television, became wearisome after a while.

At various points during the performance or during designated speaking parts, the front of the house was dimly illuminated while several camera men roamed the edges of the crowd, presumably looking for money shots of collective and individual reactions of the audience members. So rather than being able to sit back and bask in the overall reverie of the evening, you were periodically distracted by the intermittent blinding flashes of light.

If the production had any shortcomings, that was it. Aside from a few missed cues on host Olivia Newton-John's part, everything else about the entire affair was meticulously executed. And with the exception of John Oates, who turned in an inexplicably neutered, diet-jazz worthy version of "Leaving On a Jet Plane," all of the performers did their best to deliver renditions that maintained the essence of the originals, which despite the undeniable earnestness of those paying tribute, proved vastly superior.

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Jim Narcy
Mayor Guillermo Vidal (from left), Chuck Morris, Congressman Jared Polis and Governor John Hickenlooper

The reason that the singer's songs were so resonant in the first place, clearly had as much to do with Denver's voice and delivery as the relatability of the compositions themselves. Of all the night's performers, Lee Ann Womack offered up the most noteworthy performance during the second half of the show with a stirring version of "Sunshine On My Shoulders." Other highlights included Trace Bundy's instrumental take on "Late Winter Early Spring (When Everybody Goes to Mexico)," Nathaniel Rateliff and Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats trading vocals on "Poems, Prayers, Promises," Michael Martin Murphey and Steve Weisberg on "Boy from the Country," and pretty much any song the Boulder Philharmonic performed on.

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Jim Narcy
Eric Johnson (left) and Nathaniel Rateliff singing "Poems, Prayers, Promises"

There's no question that John Denver touched a great many lives. You could see it in the smiling faces of the people in the crowd and hear it in the voices of everyone who spoke about him. From the luminaries who gave speeches at the beginning of the show to the parade of folks who followed, friends, fellow activists and admirers, it was clear that the one thing everyone had in common was that they were all fans, including host Olivia Newton-John, a close friend of Denver and his family. And they all gave heartfelt testimonials, some nodding to his exceptional songwriting prowess, others pointing to his groundbreaking environmentalism efforts,noting how ahead of his time Denver was and how fitting it was that his life was being celebrated on Earth Day.

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Jim Narcy
Michael Martin Murphey paying tribute with "Boy from the Country"

At the beginning of the show, as Denver became the first official inductee into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, Congressman Jared Polis reflected about growing up in a household where Denver's music flowed freely and then joked about how hard it was to be a Denver fan in high school. He was followed by newly elected Governor John Hickenlooper, who after offering up his now customary "politics is Hollywood for ugly people" quip, presented a plaque to the late singer's three surviving children. (Denver Mayor Guillermo Vidal accepted a plaque on behalf of the city of Denver for Red Rocks, the night's other inductee.)

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Jim Narcy
Governor Hickenlooper presenting plaque to Denver's children

Location Info

Map

1STBANK Center

11450 Broomfield Lane, Broomfield, CO

Category: Music

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19 comments
Yoster53
Yoster53

Is there a video of this?

Andrew
Andrew

Loved the show...thought John Oats did a great job on Jet Plane. Also...the biggest standing ovation for any song performed that night was by the two tribute guys. Have seen the one, Mr. Curry, at a symphony concert in Indianapolis last summer, and his performance Thursday night was perfect once again. Shame they did not get a mention in the review. Obviously the audience's spontaneous and huge standing ovation said a lot more than the Denver Post did. This concert was worth every penny I paid to get to it!

Dee
Dee

I was there too Andrew, and I couldn't agree with you more. I was a little shocked as well that the huge standing ovation that the song "Perhaps Love" got was totally ignored in this review. Oh well...at least the entire audience has good taste! and most of the people I spoke with loved it. And I also thought John Oates did a marvelous job on singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane". He has a wonderful voice and his rendition was very pleasing and easy to listen to. But the song Perhaps Love, and the other song they did that evening, Claypso, was outstanding, and I believe Jim Curry totally outshined anyone else up on that stage that night...except, of course, ..Annie Denver.

chris
chris

Dee and Andrew, I was so amazed by the two members of John's band that sang this beautiful song. (Perhaps Love) What talent. I have to admit I loved to see Annie, and didn't care to see his second wife. Annie is just so down to earth and just a beautiful in heart and mind.

Keri
Keri

I went and thought it was wonderful. I loved John Oates rendition of Leaving on a jet plane and I wasn't overly impressed with Lee Ann's singing. I thought she was a little dull. I came from New York to see this tribute and being married with 4 children and never getting away - this was a bucket list event for me. I think I will always mourn and weep for losing such a treasure to the world. God bless all of you who put this together and made it happen!!Keri

ralphgeorge
ralphgeorge

LEEANN WOMACK was the best of the Performers.  She is a GREAT Vocalist.  Do you expect her to jump up and down on SUNSINE ON MY SHOULDERS.

Dee
Dee

Any chance this was filmed for later broadcast on PBS, etc.?

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

We've been hearing that HDNet is going to broadcast the show later this year. We'll keep you posted on details as we get them.

Debbie McLaughlin
Debbie McLaughlin

It is about time this happened,should have been done long ago.John's music moves me to this day.His voice was hypnotic,smooth and full of heartfelt emotion.I hear certains songs and they bring me to tears,I will never stop listening to his songs,they give me such comfort and peace.It is such a shame that he left us so soon when his career was taking off again and he had a new beginning fille with such enthusiam.I miss you John,you will not be forgotten and you songs will live forever...

Brian
Brian

Is there a video of this?I'm in the UK so can't get to these events

Trekdiane
Trekdiane

As John sang.."it's about time"...very cool..as in "far out"!!

chris
chris

Came from Wisconsin to see this very emotional fantastic concert. God Bless You John - "Peace." The most emotions came from John singing Annie's Song via video and orchestra. I can't tell you how the tears began to flow. After that seeing the very beautiful Annie was just awesome. Thank you for this wonderful concert. I didn't want it to end!

Keri
Keri

Me too!! I weeped like a baby. As I am right now back in NY.

Prichards
Prichards

True what they say about different strokes. I thought John Oats' performance of "Leavin' On A Jet Plane" was teriffic. I absolutely loved the arrangement and his vocals on the tune. It was really magical.

Jeri
Jeri

I agree, I thought John Oates' rendition of Jet Plane was amazing, loved it!

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