Of Concerts Past: Emmylou Harris in Philadelphia, 1985

So I stuck my hand into a pile of ticket stubs and came up with this:


Nowadays, country music is all the rage amongst the younger set thanks to Taylor Swift and the countless hunky hat acts, plus whoever else is considered hot. In the early and mid 1980s, however, the first wave of the MTV generation – especially here in the northeast – saw and heard country as little more than an extension of The Beverly Hillbillies and Hee-Haw. I.e., corny. We were more about big hair, thin ties, synth pop and…

Well, “we” wasn’t me. I followed the same fashion sense then that I do now: jeans, T-shirt and, often, untucked flannel shirt. Don’t get me wrong – I liked (and still like) my share of the era’s pop acts. It doesn’t get any better than the Go-Go’s and Bangles, for instance. But I digress…only to digress again:

Somewhere in there, and I can’t remember exactly when beyond a vague “sometime in 1981 or ‘82,” my appreciation of the Byrds launched via their Greatest Hits LP, a solid 11-song set originally released in early 1967. That led me to investigate their other albums, including one that, at the time, was long out of print – the country-flavored Sweetheart of the Rodeo with Gram Parsons. That, in turn, led to the Flying Burrito Brothers and then Parsons’ two solo albums, GP and Return of the Grievous Angel, both of which featured – and, yes, this is the end of this roundabout intro – Emmylou Harris.

According to my desk calendar, I purchased her brand-new Ballad of Sally Rose LP on February 17th, 1985 (and liked it so much that, in a few weeks, I also bought it on cassette). Perhaps not her best work, but a work that interested me nonetheless due to its connection with Gram, who inspired it. This leadoff song, especially, drew me in –

The next song, “Rhythm Guitar,” became another favorite…

As did “Woman Walk the Line”:

By month’s end (March 29th, to be precise) I was at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia – the first time I saw her, and my first time inside that hallowed hall. She started with a set of her older tunes, took a break and then returned for a second set that featured the Sally Rose album from start to finish. In between the two sets, she said, she received flowers with a note requesting a specific song that she and the Hot Band hadn’t rehearsed. She thought “Heart to Heart” might fit the bill instead:

In any event, I wrote in my desk calendar that it was a “great show” – the second-best concert I’d seen to that point in time. I wish I remembered more.

No setlist for this specific show is available online, but I imagine this night was similar to Emmy’s March 22, 1985, concert in Cincinnati, which was:

Set 1:

  1. I’m Movin’ On 
  2. Return of the Grievous Angel 
  3. Blue Kentucky Girl 
  4. In My Dreams 
  5. Mr. Sandman 
  6. Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn 
  7. We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning 
  8. Two More Bottles of Wine
  9. Restless 
  10. Racing in the Street 
  11. Driving Wheel 
  12. Ooh Las Vegas 

Set 2:

  1. The Ballad of Sally Rose 
  2. Rhythm Guitar 
  3. I Think I Love Him 
  4. Heart to Heart 
  5. Woman Walk the Line 
  6. Bad News 
  7. Timberline 
  8. Long Tall Sally Rose 
  9. White Line 
  10. Diamond in My Crown 
  11. K-S-O-S 
  12. Sweet Chariot 


  1. One of These Days 
  2. Born to Run 
  3. Luxury Liner 
  4. Together Again 
  5. Save the Last Dance for Me 
  6. Hello Stranger 
  7. To Daddy

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