Albuquerque

It was like stepping back in time when I saw Lee Greenwood perform at Sandia Casino on the Fourth of July.

More than a decade has passed since I first witnessed the singer in concert at Washington Park in Alamogordo. I was only 11 when my family and some friends went to hear the Country Caravan tour, where various country music singers from a college in Texas took the stage.

Back then, I had no idea what all the fuss was about when well-known artist Lee Greenwood grabbed the microphone and opened his mouth.

I haven’t heard about Lee Greenwood or listened to his music since that warm summer night so many years ago. After hearing him again, I don’t think much has changed.

The energetic performer and songwriter still gets a kick out of interacting with his fans and singing those memorable, heartfelt songs people love him for.

Much like the concert in Alamogordo, my experience at Sandia Casino turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The clouds that hovered above the amphitheater did nothing to diminish the soaring spirit of the crowd. In fact, everyone who entered the gate was given a small hand-held American flag to wave in the air.

As the sun set, I glanced around the stadium and noticed the different concertgoers dressed in patriotic red, white and blue. Behind the amphitheater, the golden lights of the pueblo glistened.

It wasn’t long before the smiling faces broke into one wild, welcoming shout as Lee Greenwood made his entrance. The man who sounds eerily like the lead singer of Journey performed a medley of tracks from his collection of a whopping 23 albums.

For over an hour, fans in the crowd clapped and sang the words to old favorites, such as “If I Know Me,” “Hearts Are Made to Break” and “Ring on Her Finger and Time On Her Hands.”

A moving moment on the memorable Fourth of July came when Greenwood asked all of the veterans sitting in the stadium to stand up and be recognized. Waving my flag and clapping, I joined the singer and thousands of other people in applauding the veterans of yesterday and today.

I’ve never heard an artist talk longer than Lee Greenwood in between sets. Throughout the night, Greenwood told us long, drawnout stories about his family, including his wife and two little boys.

Don’t get me wrong, it was sweet to hear him share anecdotes about Tennessee, but I really didn’t see the point to it. The humorous punchlines that arrived at the very last second of his lengthy speeches were not worth waiting for.

Greenwood’s personal tales didn’t take away from the show. After all, the fans were there to hear him sing.

It was the song everyone was waiting for. The concert was probably half over and Greenwood had already dazzled the crowd with his awesome saxophone skills. We knew what was coming next he called it the “American Favorite.”

But Greenwood tricked us and began singing a sweet rendition about the place Americans love to eat McDonald’s. We laughed and were content to lose ourselves in other tunes until he was ready to perform The One.

Hearing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” was the perfect way to end the Lee Greenwood concert experience. Every word pronounced by the singer was filled with deep emotion and passion. Like those sitting beside me, I had a hard time not shedding tears for America.

I remember standing in the lush, green grass in Alamogordo, surrounded by people singing that same song along with Greenwood. Fans sang with purpose back then and with even more today.

On this Fourth of July, I knew every single word as I linked arms with my mother and raised my U.S. flag high.

“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. I won’t forget the men who died and gave that right to me. And I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. There ain’t no doubt I love this land, God Bless the U.S.A.”

Following Greewood’s exceptional performance, an explosion of color lit the night sky. For almost 30 minutes, fireworks in an assortment of rainbow colors and distinct shapes amazed the crowd. It was the perfect ending to this patriotic show.

My taste in music has expanded a bit since the the 1980s, so, perhaps, I’ll give Greenwood’s new album a try. Because, who knows when I’ll get to see him again. Doesn’t he have a Greatest Hits album out?

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Jennifer Harmon