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Vince Gill in an expansive mode

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Vince Gill titled his latest album “These Days,” and it seems as if these days his operative word is “more.”

There’s more music on Gill’s new collection, a four-disc boxed set of fresh material. Sunday’s concert at the Wiltern featured more songs -- 30 of them, spread over three hours. There were more musicians onstage, as Gill was backed by as many as 16 players. And the show covered a more stylistic expanse, running the gamut from torchy jazz to bluegrass. About all there seemed to be less of is Gill, who told the audience he had lost 30 pounds this year with the help of a personal trainer.

For anyone who has attended a Gill show in the past, there were no real revelations. His voice was clean, his guitar work superb. If there were any mistakes, they were hidden quite nicely. He uses an easygoing presence to connect with the crowd and spreads his observations with liberal doses of self-deprecation, as he did when he joked, “I live in a big house ‘cause I sing like a woman . . . and I’m OK with that.”

The only things truly new about the performance were his concentration on material from “These Days” and the way in which his current freedom from chasing the hits allowed for a wider ride. Gill was a nearly constant presence on country radio during the 1990s, and he went through a phase in which his singles were successful but predictable: high-pitched ballads of vulnerability or slow-cooking country-rockers that built on his Pure Prairie League heritage. Other voices have taken over as the ambassadors on country radio, and he has gradually but increasingly embraced the resulting opportunity to make music that tests the edges of his interests, rather than the center of a format.

With fully two-thirds of Sunday’s set list pulled from the boxed set, Gill created a series of thematic subsets. A classic country section mirrored the stylized sounds of Ray Price and the Everly Brothers. A ballad segment picked up influence from Roger Williams, Duke Ellington and Wes Montgomery, with “Whenever You Come Around” featuring a surprise guest vocal by wife Amy Grant. A bluegrass subset found Gill providing furious rhythm on mandolin for mountain-influenced string music. And the country-rock backend featured brash rock ‘n’ soul and some blues-rock guitar.

Along the way, Gill filled in the cracks with other bits of influence. A solo performance of “The Key” used a quiet texture that wrung its impact from crisp, specific lyrical images, the same general writing technique associated with Guy Clark. The opening bars of “What the Cowgirls Do” applied a gospel treatment, “Molly Brown” traveled a Keb’ Mo’-ish country blues road, and several songs used the four-piece Sapphire Blue Horns to effect a New Orleans tone. And just about all those variations felt authentic.

Gill has long demonstrated an admirable versatility. These days, he’s simply providing more of it.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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