RUTLAND HERALD, RUTLAND, VT, DECEMBER 2, 2023
BY: ART EDELSTEIN, ARTS CORRESPONDENT
(Concert at: Barre Opera House, Barre, VT)
Chris Collins portrays the legendary singer-songwriter in “A John Denver Christmas Show,” Dec. 9 at the Barre Opera House.
The late John Denver could have certainly claimed a strong musical involvement with the Christmas season. Throughout his 30-year career he recorded eight albums that had a Christmas theme. While Denver’s career was cut short in 1997 at age 53 when he died in a plane crash, others have picked up his musical mantle and his music remains popular today.
Perhaps the most acclaimed John Denver tribute performer is Chris Collins. This Colorado-based musician may be Denver’s best doppelganger. The resemblance is pretty close. Collins is a fine singer and guitarist who has taken on the role, with more than a decade of performances of Denver’s music with his band Boulder Canyon.
Together they take to the Barre Opera House stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, for a Christmas show that will feature many of Denver’s beloved songs.
When Denver died, he left an impressive legacy of recorded music along with several video performances behind. In a career that began in the early 1960s he recorded approximately 300 songs, about 200 of which he wrote. Denver had 33 albums and singles that were certified Gold and Platinum in the United States. He was a top-selling entertainer with estimated sales of more than 33 million units.
As any fan of Denver can tell you, his popularity as a singer-songwriter stems from his generally positive and upbeat lyrics and catchy music that emphasized his joy in nature, disdain for city life, enthusiasm for music, along with relationship trials.
While he primarily performed acoustic music on six- and 12-string guitar Denver’s music was sometimes hard to pin down. His songs and albums could be categorized as country, Billboard Hot 100 and adult contemporary. Whatever the category he found himself in, Denver’s music earned him 12 gold and four platinum albums. If you aren’t familiar with “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Poems, Prayers & Promises,” “Annie’s Song.” “Rocky Mountain High” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” you’ve been Rip Van Winkling for a long time.
Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon do a fine job performing these Denver hits and many other popular Denver songs in their stage show. Tribute bands walk a thin line between overdoing their impersonation of the performer and presenting a believable and musically creative show.
Collins and crew do well. While he does resemble Denver, he’s not a carbon copy. The band with lead guitar/fiddle, keyboard and bass cover a lot of ground without overpowering Collins. From the videos we’ve seen, this is a show that you’ll leave with a smile on your face as you hum a Denver tune.
Throughout his career Denver garnered praise for his music without really setting out to. He lived in Aspen, Colorado for much of his life and as a result, in 1974, he was named poet laureate of the state. So popular was his song “Rocky Mountain High” that the Colorado state legislature also adopted it as one of its two state songs in 2007. West Virginia did the same for “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in 2014.
Denver was also a musical ambassador opening new venues in Communist countries. His concert tour of the USSR in 1986 presented the first performances by an American artist since the Cold War began. Denver returned to the Soviet Union in 1987 to do a benefit concert for the victims of Chernobyl.
Denver was also the first artist from the West to do a multi-city tour of mainland China, in October 1992, where “Country Roads,” he was told,” is the most famous song written in the West.”
While Denver has been gone 26 years, he is far from forgotten. This year his song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” recorded in 1971, achieved a high honor. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden named 25 recordings as audio treasures worthy of preservation for all time based on their cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation’s recorded sound heritage, and “Country Roads” was among them.
The Christmas season is upon us. We’ll be listening to Handel’s “Messiah,” “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” and, perhaps, John Denver’s “Christmas Like a Lullaby.”