As another year comes to a close, Sawyer Brown continues to expand their fan base with a night full of music and tales that reach back 36 years.
As most people across the country were home preparing for festivities of a New Year’s celebration, fans lined the walls just outside the Firekeepers Casino Event Center in the Cereal City, Battle Creek, Michigan, for a night of entertainment by the country pop band, Sawyer Brown.
Sawyer Brown is a five-piece band that originated in 1981 after being part of the road band for country pop star Don King. After Don retired in 1981, the band took form and hasn’t looked back since. Four of the original members are still in the lineup: Mark Miller as lead vocalist, Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard on keyboards, Jim Scholten on bass guitar, and Joe Smyth keeping the beat on drums. Shayne Hill took over on the guitar skills in 2004.
As the show started and the first notes played, the anxiously awaited crowd quickly jumped to their feet to welcome the band as they opened the show with their 1997 hit, “Six Days On The Road.” With Mark showing off his famous dance moves and body movements, the crowd got louder and encouraged him to slide back and forth across the front of the stage to show more of his famous dance steps.
The band continued with hit after hit while the crowd sang along word for word to each song throughout the show. With a successful career spanning 36 years, the band has accumulated a collection of 23 albums with 58 singles and seven No. 1 singles, making it easy to fill a setlist.
At moments during the show, Mark took breaks from singing to talk to the crowd leading up to the next song. On one of his breaks, he welcomed the crowd and thanked them all for coming. He mentioned that however, as the rest of the country is enjoying a mid-December heat wave, Michigan was enduring a wintery cold spell joking that he instructed the bus driver to park the bus as close to the building as possible. The crowd chuckled along as he added that he was layered with clothing with long sleeves and sweatshirts to try and stay warm, which led into “The Walk.”
After performing the emotional and sensitive Mac McAnally-penned “All These Years,” Mark stopped and looked out to the crowd saying, “You all are out here whooping and hollering a lot about a song that is about adultery.” A young female cheered again, and Mark questioned her about it. The woman revealed that she and her friends are school teachers, which lights up Mark with a joking comment, “and here is what is wrong with America’s children today, when their teachers come to a show and are acting like this.”
Mark then proceeded to tell a story of a radio interview he did with a gentleman out of California about the song. He comically describes the DJ as a stereotypical beach bum surfer type that flipped his hair back as he asked, “Dude, dude. I just have to know; your song ‘All These Years,’ when the husband came home and flipped on the light, did the guy just stay there while the married couple talked?” Mark then made a face and said, “Dude, it’s a song, not a movie!” The crowd broke into laughter as Mark laughed and continued by looking over to Gregg at the keyboards and asking, “Hobie, did you just sit there the entire time?” Hobie responded by striking keys on his keyboard to introduce the beginning of the next song “Mission Temple Firework Stand.”
Next, Mark asked the crowd, how many had ever seen Sawyer Brown before. He then smirked and commented that he wished they would have lied to him as only about 30 percent of the audience claimed to have seen them. He then professed that Sawyer Brown has over 36 years of music and that the crowd needed to get out more.
As a promotional stunt to acquire a videotape of their performance, Sawyer Brown auditioned for the TV talent show, Star Search in 1983. During the auditions, they were selected to compete as a vocal group in which they won the competition, $100,000, and a recording contract. While recording their self-titled debut album, they also recorded their first number one hit, “Step That Step,” released later in 1984.
Sawyer Brown recently released their 23rd album and Mark stopped to declare that the first three recordings were also sold in 8 track form, bringing a chuckle amongst the older members of the audience. During that time, Mark had never written a song for or to his wife to whom he has been married for 27 years. On this latest album, Travelin’ Band, Mark included a song written for his wife called “Smokin’ Hot Wife.”
In 2005, country supergroup Alabama was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. For the induction ceremony, Sawyer Brown was asked to perform a song of theirs to which they agreed. After learning the song for that one performance, they decided to add the song, “Dixieland Delight,” to their regular show to show respect to the guys of Alabama.
With Mark leading the show up to this point, Joe stamped a beat on his drums to signal a stage takeover as Gregg assumed lead vocals for the Joe Walsh cover, “Life’s Been Good,” leaving Mark in disbelief as he stood just off center stage playing his guitar. Gregg moved to center stage to sing away and dance in extreme fashion.
As the song finished, the band immediately rolled into the Steve Miller Band cover of “Rock’n Me” with Shayne showing off his singing skills as he took command of the mic.
Mark finally regained control of the vocals to thank the crowd again for coming before singing the 1993 hit “Thank God For You” and left the stage.
While the crowd cheered the band back out for an encore, they rushed the front of the stage waiting for their return. Gregg started off the encore with his country-rock version of “What I Like About You” while the crowd sang and danced along to The Romantics cover song.
The crowd’s singing volume escalated to a higher decibel as Mark performed the Rick Springfield rock hit “Jessie’s Girl” before leading into the band’s Top 5 hit, “The Race Is On.”
The band finished with their second number one hit song, “Some Girls Do,” before exiting the stage to end the evening’s show.
During the 80s and 90s, Sawyer Brown was known as “Gypsies On Parade” for their pop country hits, flashy clothes and Mark’s fancy footwork of dance moves unknown to the country music world prior. After 36 years of entertaining crowds around the globe in sold out venues, Sawyer Brown now arrives on stage in jeans and a mix of flannel shirts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Although the appearances have changed slightly, the music of the “Travelin’ Band” is just as good as before with Mark Miller’s elaborate dancing on stage and the crowd’s leaving each night satisfied but still yearning for more.
Click on the links below to follow along with Sawyer Brown as they prepare to embark on another year of entertaining crowds around the globe.
Sawyer Brown setlist:
1. Six Days On The Road 2. The Boys And Me 3. Drive Me Wild 4. This Time 5. Cafe On The Corner 6. The Walk 7. (This Thing Called) Wantin’ And Havin’ It All 8. Hard To Say 9. This Night Won’t Last Forever 10. All These Years 11. Mission Temple Fireworks Stand 12. Step That Step 13. Betty’s Being Bad 14. Smokin’ Hot Wife 15. Dixieland Delight (Alabama cover) 16. The Dirt Road 17. Life’s Been Good (Joe Walsh cover) 18. Rock’n Me (Steve Miller Band cover) 19. Thank God For You 20. Encore – What I Like About You (The Romantics cover) 21. Encore – Jessie’s Girl (Rick Springfield cover) 22. Encore – The Race Is On (George Jones cover) 23. Encore – Some Girls Do
Event Date: 29-Dec-2016