The Statlers at the Palace

By Paul Moffett

Whoever first said that the only thing you find in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead armadillos obviously never went to a Statler Brothers concert. From the red- and white-striped America outline hanging over the stage to the choice of "classic" material which they dropped into the middle of their string of hit songs, it's clear that the Statlers have made a career out of hewing tightly to the dead center of the road that runs straight through the American heartland.

Pearl Bailey would have loved it as the Statlers opened their February 7 show at the Palace with an off-stage rendition of the national anthem. The audience, most of them clear candidates for AARP membership, rose as one with the first notes - and sat down as promptly when the song was over.

The "boys" kicked off the show with their call to nostalgia: "Do You Remember These," which details objects and people familiar only to someone who grew up in the Eisenhower decade. From there on, they ran through their hits with precision, including "Class of `57,""Bed of Rose's,""Flowers on the Wall,""I'll Go to My Grave Lovin' You" and "Elizabeth," plus an excursion into a mini-set of classics from the late Fifties.

Their carefully crafted show included some variety goofing between bassist Harold Reid, his brother Don and the "new guy" Jimmy Fortune, who replaced the late Lew DeWitt in 1984. The mildly suggestive jokes evoked laughter and an exchange between Harold Reid and a overly enthusiastic fan in the balcony demonstrated that they can handle a diversion from the script perfectly well.

After forty years, though, the real reason that they continue to draw sell-out crowds even without radio airplay is that they can sing and sing well. Their tight-as-Madonna's-bustier harmonies sound as sharp now as they did years ago. The origin of those harmonies was evoked as they closed out their show with a set of gospel tunes from the same era as their earliest hits.

The crowd, pleased with the show, was no doubt equally pleased that the sun was still shining as they left the theater. The Statlers certainly understand their fans well and, so long as they continue to give them exactly what they want, will likely continue singing to sell-out crowds.

Singer Tara Lynn opened the show with what was essentially a set of forgettable karaoke tunes. She worked hard at it, but the crowd was really there for the Statlers. She might do better if she's ever in front of a real, live band.