Harrah's Casino, Cherokee, NC on February 19, 2005

Even though I'm a frequent visitor to Cherokee, it took Marty to get me to Harrah's Casino for the first time. My sister Jackie and I arrived around 5:00 and picked up our tickets. The concert was at 9:00, with seating to begin between 7:00 and 7:30, so we had time to look around for a while. Given the fact that the casino is large, smoky, loud and extremely crowded on a Saturday evening, we were surprised to run into LaDonna and Gary the very first thing. It was great seeing LaDonna again, and I was glad to officially meet Gary (even though I feel like I know him already through his wonderful pictures!) We enjoyed chatting with them while we got something to eat and made plans to sit together during the show.

By the time we got back to the auditorium, a large crowd had gathered outside the doors and a long line was beginning to form. I saw a couple of faces that looked familiar, but no one that I knew by name. Gary and LaDonna joined us in line, and after a short wait, they started letting us into the auditorium.

The seating was a disappointment. Tickets were purchased by section, with open seating in which ever section you were in. When I called to get my tickets, I was advised to sit in either of the side sections instead of the middle, because the first 10 rows of the middle sections are reserved for Tribal VIP's and their families and guests. Well, we soon found out that the first 10 rows in every section are reserved, so our seats were further back than we would have liked. The auditorium seats 1,500 and we were told it was sold out.

With almost 2 hours to kill, we chatted and people watched until it was finally showtime! The Gov came out and did his routine with the crowd, throwing out t-shirts, playing his version of "Let's Make a Deal" and generally getting everyone ready for the show. The crowd was mixed - all ages and degrees of enthusiasm, lots of old fans, but many seeing Marty for the first time.

After a New Year's Eve type countdown, Marty and the Fabulous Superlatives took the stage. Marty was all in black, with the Superlatives dressed in those bright fuchsia suits that only they can manage to wear and look good in!! Surprisingly, they started the show with "Hillbilly Rock," then did "Hey Baby" before Marty ask the crowd to give him a "Welllllll...." After "The Whiskey Ain't Working," he talked about Travis and did a line or two of "Here's a Quarter," then told the Mr. Cobb story. Marty seemed to be in a great mood, cutting up with the audience, as well as the band.

Jackie did a great job of keeping a set list for us, then we promptly lost it somewhere between Cherokee and home, so even though we remembered the songs, I'm not sure about the order from here on out.

The audience clapped along to "Tempted," then Marty talked about the casino and had fun with "Rock Island Line." followed by a great version of "Give My Love to Rose." He talked about the new gospel album he and the guys have been working on. He said it's called Soul Chapel and is full of "old sounding gospel songs like this one." With that introduction, Harry came out from behind the drums and sang lead on "Somebody Saved Me,'' which was fantastic!

While Marty was doing a beautiful instrumental and talking about wanting to be a hobo when he was a kid, a couple of ladies on the front row kept calling out requests and trying to get his attention. He finally told them to be patient and was able to finish "Hobo's Prayer." He then turned to the two ladies and asked "What do you want to hear?" and did "Burn me Down" for them.

The Fabulous Superlatives took their turn in the spotlight, with Kenny wowing the audience with "Country Music's Got a Hold on Me" and Brian charmed them with "Crazy Over You." Harry sang lead again on "Slow Train" and they all traded verses on a wonderful version of "The Weight." Marty also did "Now That's Country" and a long mandolin instrumental that included, among other things, "Dixie.". That always gets a huge reaction from the crowd, since it isn't considered politically correct to perform that song these days. The encore was "Draggin' the Line," which seems to be an audience favorite.

A lot of people stayed for the Meet & Greet, but since casino personnel were moving people out so they could clean up, the line went pretty fast. Despite that fact, Marty took the time to speak to everyone, signed everything handed to him and posed for pictures. He laughed a lot and seemed to be enjoying himself.

Speaking of pictures....unfortunately, Gary was told he couldn't be our photographer, so documenting the event was left up to Jackie and I.

Even though there were a few problems with the sound system, it was great having my first Marty Party so early in the year. It got 2005 off to a Hillbilly Rocking good time!

Review by Judy Simonton, Lawrenceville, GA

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