Asleep at the Wheel swings into Norman's Sooner Theater

By Kimberly Burk, The Oklahoman Modified: January 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm •  Published: January 5, 2013
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They sang about Texas. They sang about Oklahoma. They sang about Route 66, and Faded Love. They paid loving tribute to Patti Page with a gorgeous version of "The Tennessee Waltz."
 
They strummed and drummed and plucked and harmonized, and it made me sad to think that some people have never heard Western Swing live and in person. 
 
Asleep at the Wheel has made a few albums and won a few Grammy awards for its work in the recording studio, but it's a band that is meant for the stage.
 
When co-founder and lead singer Ray Benson opens his mouth, you don't just hear the notes, you feel them. He's warm. He's golden. He vibrates.
 
If it weren't for those red cowboy boots, you would hardly notice Elizabeth McQueen (guitar and vocals) during the first few numbers, sandwiched between grinning steel guitarist Eddie Rivers and Bob Wills-channeling fiddle player Jason Roberts. But then she got her first solo line, and some people in the audience actually gasped. 
 
Her voice is strong and pitch-perfect and stylized just enough to suit the genre, and one man was so enchanted he made a fool of himself after one of her numbers.
 
New music is a  great thing. We want the songwriters to be able to feed their families. But there's something about a concert that makes you want the familiar. Asleep at the Wheel has been singing "Take me Back to Tulsa" for decades. They can do "Miles and Miles of Texas" and "San Antonio Rose" on autopilot. But they played them for us again on Friday night at Sooner Theatre in Norman, and it's like we had never heard those songs before.
 
More than 40 years down the road, the band still knows what it was born for. Western Swing lives on.