I remember the first time we saw “Raiding the Country Vault” back during the spring at the Mansion Theater in Branson.
If I remember correctly, the crowd numbered less than 30 that night. We felt badly for the cast, as well as being embarrassed for them. But true pros perform whatever the size of the crowd they are playing for, and this cast is no exception to that rule.
You might have thought every seat was filled that night the way these guys worked for the next two hours. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by us.
We had another night left on that particular trip, and decided we wanted to go again before heading home. The crowd however wasn’t much bigger then either, and while I didn’t see how the show could be any better, here it was great again! Every person on that stage gave 150 percent the second night as well. I was even more impressed.
We went back again on our next trip. And our next trip. And our next trip… well you get the idea. Overall, we saw “Raiding the Country Vault” nine times this year…loved it each time.
Each time we went back, attendance began to grow…not by huge numbers at first, but still growth. Then by the end of the year, crowds were over 1,000 a night. Looking back, those small crowds had to have been difficult for the performers early on, but as mentioned, their performances and their personalities never wavered.
About that cast, two things stood out every time I saw them. One of course was their amazing talent; two is their genuine likeability.
They circulated through the lobby after each show. I saw no difference in their smiles or their genuineness regardless of the size of the crowd. The performers come up to you; they are not separated from the crowd by ropes and security guards saying, “do this” or “don’t do that”. They sign autographs and they pose for pictures. They make it seem they have all the time in the world. One other thing that is clear is that these folks obviously like one another. There is no ego at all in this cast (and with their talents, there is plenty of room for ego).
I could watch any of these individuals perform an entire show by themselves and be blown away I feel sure. Seeing them perform as a group though is a bonus. If you didn’t see the show during its six months run this year, let me tell you briefly what it is, by first telling you what it is not!
“Raiding the Country Vault” is not a typical Branson tribute show. Instead, the cast includes amazingly gifted artists who all have hits of their own, but interestingly enough, they do not perform their own hits.
What they do perform is a set list that includes many of the biggest hits in the history of country music, but they don’t do it with the original artists’ dress, wigs or by trying to replicate their voices. They do it their own way in their own voices, and that is much more than enough for me. Conway Twitty, Patsy Cline, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Garth Brooks, and George Strait are just some of the iconic artists you hear being performed.
The cast is led by country music star Michael Peterson. His biggest hits include “From Here to Eternity” and “Drink, Swear, Steal and Lie”, both #1 songs and his version of “Wichita Lineman” in this show is second only to the great Glen Campbell. In addition to his incredible singing and stage presence, he serves as the Master of Ceremonies and Musical Director.
Next is Billy Yates. He is a renowned songwriter of huge songs like “Choices” and “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair” for George Jones. Billy has scored 10 #1 records in Europe and was 2012 European CMA Male Vocalist of the Year. He regularly performs there to audiences in the thousands. Billy’s greatness as an artist is evident in this show on standards like “Devil Went Down To Georgia” and “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”
There’s multi-talented Michelle Poe (who has played with Hank Williams Jr. and Brooks and Dunn among others); Colt Prather (great voice, played with Alan Jackson and nominated for Lead Guitar Player of the Year); Melody Hart (great vocalist, nominated for Fiddle Player of the Year); Dr. Scott Kwapiszeski, a very successful chiropractor who put that particular career on the back burner to join this cast playing pedal steel and banjo also nominated for Instrumentalist and Steel Player of the Year; drummer Derrek C. Phillips has worked with Hank Williams Jr. and Michael McDonald while keyboard magician Steve Ramsey has played the keys for notables like Travis Tritt and Tanya Tucker.
It’s a well-oiled machine whose parts function incredibly well together. In fact, they recently were named “Band of the Year” in Branson and presented with a Terry Award in recognition of that well-deserved honor.
I mentioned earlier that this not a typical tribute show, though the original singers of the songs being performed get their dues in absentia with interesting facts presented about them on message boards while the “Vault” band members are performing their songs.
It all works beautifully, and when you throw in the very big time stage lighting, the end result is a memorable show.
By the way “Raiding the Country Vault” moves to the Starlite Theater for 2017, right where the action is on the strip. The Starlite is more intimate than the Mansion, and we see it as a perfect marriage. Look for the show only to get bigger and bigger.
Finally, I was talking with a guy in the lobby after that last show. I have always thought he has a good handle on what’s going on in Branson so I remarked to him “this is going to be the hottest show in town next year.” His comment was “next year heck! It already is.” Being that almost every comment I see on social media about this show includes the phrase, “I can’t wait ’til next March” (when the show reopens), I think my friend was right.
Tommy Dave Jackson.