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Holiday tradition: Oak Ridge Boys return to Spokane as part of the 29th annual Christmas tour

November 30, 2018

The Oak Ridge Boys know a bit about Christmas.

With seven Christmas albums to their credit, including 2016’s “Celebrate Christmas,” the long-running vocal quartet clearly loves getting into the spirit of the season.

Need more evidence? Head to the First Interstate Center for the Arts in downtown Spokane on Wednesday for the group’s “Shine the Light on Christmas Show,” as part of the 29th annual Oak Ridge Boys Christmas tour.

The Oak Ridge Boys, which originally formed in the 1950s and sports the lineup dating back to the 1970s – Duane Allen (lead), Joe Bonsall (tenor), William Lee Golden (baritone), and Richard Sterban (bass) – is making their first appearance in Spokane since the Christmas tour in 2013.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for 29 years,” said Sterban, speaking from his home in Nashville. “But over the course of the years, we’ve become known for our Christmas music. … So we have a wealth of music to pull from.”

And even though it’s a Christmas tour, audiences can expect two-part show, as has been tradition. The first half will feature the Oak Ridge Boys’ biggest hits; the second half will be all Christmas. And while the format will be familiar to those who have seen the Oak Ridge Boys’ Christmas tours, Sterban said the band changes it up every year.

“We try to never go back to a town and sing the same show we did the last time were there,” he said. “You can count on the fact that it will be a lot different than we were last in Spokane.”

He called the show a mixture, with an opening set that includes the band’s “regular music,” such as the fan favorite “Thank God for Kids,” their first hit, “Y’all Come Back Saloon.”

“And that includes ‘Elvira,’ ” Sterban said, referring to the Oak Ridge Boys’ monster hit from 1981 that sold 2 million copies and hit No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. “You can count on the fact that even though it’s a Christmas show, you’re going to hear me do, ‘Giddy up oom papa oom papa mow mow.’ That’s definitely going to happen.”

The show might also include a couple tracks from their latest album, “17th Avenue Revival,” an acclaimed release from March that was helmed by the in-demand producer Dave Cobb, who produced the Grammy-winning albums “Traveller” for Chris Stapleton and “Something More Than Free” for Jason Isbell.

The second half is all Christmas.

“We cover just about every aspect of Christmas,” Sterban said. “In a lot of ways, Christmas can be a romantic time of year, so we cover the romance of Christmas. Christmas is certainly a fun time of the year, a secular time of the year, so we try to cover those bases as well. We’ll sing ‘Jingle Bells,’ and encourage the audience to sing along with us.”

Santa Claus will even make an appearance, and during this family-friendly show, children will be encouraged to meet him as he heads out into the audience.

During the “rocking chair segments,” the four Oak Ridge Boys will sit down in some Cracker Barrel rocking chairs and share stories of their childhood Christmas memories and sing Christmas carols. “It gives the audience and our fans a chance to get to know the four individual Oak Ridge Boys just a little bit,” he said.

Finally, the band gets down to celebrating the “true meaning of Christmas,” Sterban said. “While there are many aspects of Christmas and we try to cover them all, but as far as we’re concerned the most important part of Christmas … is the birth of Jesus.”

He added, “Singing songs about Jesus and the birth of Jesus and what that means in our world today, that’s an important part of our show. … That’s important to us and we know that for the people who live in Spokane, that’s important to them as well.”

Sterban said he and the band always look forward to returning to Spokane, as the city holds a special place in the band’s history.

“We love Spokane,” he said, “and you probably know the story that the first time we ever did ‘Elvira’ was in Spokane. And we knew right away how special that song was. So we have a history in Spokane that is very special to the Oak Ridge Boys.”

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