Crystal Gayle at the O'Shaughnessy, 11/6/10


Crystal Gayle November 6, 2010 O'Shaughnessy Auditorium

There is one issue in this country that has proven more polarizing than any other, in the past 30 years reconstructing party politics, weighing deeply on the hearts and minds of every American citizen, occasionally leading to violence.

That issue: whether or not a woman should be permitted to grow her hair to the floor.


Protests have taken place outside beauty salons, with one side aggressively holding signs painted in shiny hair-cutting scissors, the other proudly whipping their long locks to and fro. While most Americans opt not to discuss this issue in polite conversation, Gallup polls reveal that public opinion is split right down the middle, with approximately half of American men and women identifying as pro-longhair, and half identifying as pro-haircut.

I identify as a Crystal Gayle fan - she has a beautiful voice, her upbeat songs are as enjoyable to listen to as ever, and her slow ballads bring on waves of nostalgia for my earliest years, listening to her hits on my mother's clock radio. And so, unsurprisingly, I was excited to hear she'd be performing at the O'Shaughnessy on my birthday. However, what I didn't know was that I would be surrounded by an audience packed with pro-longhairs. And I believe a woman's right to grow her hair to the floor should be restricted only to cases in which having short hair would cause the woman's shoulders to become cold (in northern climates, namely).

It was a somewhat alienating experience, to say the least.*


Hair politics aside, the concert was great. Yes, she still has her long hair. She seamlessly blends country with soft rock, pop, folk and jazz. And something about her sad ballads like "Talking in Your Sleep" takes me back to lying on the floor as a very young child, feeling the scratchy carpet against my cheek, hearing these mellow sounds from Mom's clock radio and feeling content and safe.

Backed by an excellent band comprised of a group of Nashville studio musicians as well as by her sister Peggy Sue on backing vocals, Gayle delivered an energetic set, epitomizing charm in her performance. Many of today's young female singers could definitely take a few cues from her in their own stage performances - effortless, and with sparkle. Many could also take a cue from her on how to age well, considering the current trend of hard living and over-the-top surgeries - the woman looks good.

The definite highlight of the show were the moments shared between Gayle and her sister Peggy Sue, a singer and songwriter in her own right (Peggy Sue co-wrote "Don't Come Home A'Drinkin'" with their sister Loretta Lynn). The two sang a few duets, and Peggy Sue sang a few songs on her own. But the best part of the whole show was when Peggy Sue played the role of comic sidekick, offering up a routine reminiscent of the best of old Opry radio comedy.

Critic's bias: Pro-haircut. (Except when it comes to Crystal; then I think exceptions are okay. But haircuts for everyone else.) The crowd: Pro-longhair, some in nun's habits and clerical collars. Overheard in the crowd: "She looks like Lorie Line!" Random notebook dump: They do a comedy bit on how sister almost died: got thrown off a horse, was saved by a man who "came out from the walmarts and unplugged it." Set list: Everybody's Reaching Out for Someone ? Ready for the Times to Get Better Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For Talking in Your Sleep You Don't Even Know My Name Memories Are Made of This I'll Get Over You/You Never Gave Up On Me/Baby What About You/I'll Do It All Over Again (acoustic medley) River Road Coal Miner's Daughter - Peggy Sue Blue Moon of Kentucky Midnight in the Desert Can't Help Falling in Love (instrumental) Half the Way Just You and I Skylark In My Arms Don't Come Home A'Drinkin' - Peggy Sue Down in the Boondocks - Peggy Sue That's What I Like About the South Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue Cry I Saw the Light/I'll Fly Away/Jesus on the Mainline Encore: When I Dream

*So Nikki, why the ridiculous allegory? Well, to be honest, I was excited to hear Crystal Gayle would be performing at the O'Shaughnessy. When I discovered that the performance was actually part of an annual benefit for a local organization assisting pregnant women in times of financial crisis in order to promote life, a word that has become ridiculously loaded in the American abortion polemic, I felt uneasy. And to be truthful, I still feel uneasy as I write this.

On the one hand, I believe unconditionally in a woman's right to access abortion. Because that opinion is so challenged, as soon as someone drops that loaded word - life - into conversation, a word that should be so affirming, so unconditionally positive, my kneejerk reaction is to become defensive, feel uneasy. And while attending this concert was, as such, a wee bit alienating for me, it did serve as a reality check.

The organization it benefited, Cradle of Hope, in hoping to promote life, isn't protesting outside of abortion clinics. It isn't spending its time, energy and financial resources attempting to bend the ears of politicians. They seem like nice folks who are doing the best thing they can do - provide financial assistance and resources to women who need them. It is foolish to believe that this, in and of itself, is going to reduce abortion rates. What will? Creating a society in which women feel better-supported in child-rearing when they choose to do so. Better jobs, with better maternity leave. Affordable health care. Affordable child care. Access to education. Putting a stop to domestic violence. And above all, making sure all women and men have the information and resources they need to prevent unplanned pregnancies in the first place. That's a lot to tackle. And in the meantime, I'm glad to see good people who care about this issue are taking positive action to help women and children.

To me, that all seems like a something anyone who cares about women and children can get on board with. So why the unease in just coming out and being okay with saying this?

The intense anger that surrounds this issue. The discomfort and even hate that flashes in people's eyes when it gets brought up. The inevitable internet backlash. So instead, can we all just choose to agree on two things for now?

Crystal Gayle's long hair still looks totally awesome. And in spite of it all, watching this will make you happy.

Let's be reasonable, and be good to one another.