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Bo Bice – B stands for Alabama

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Bo Bice, B is for Alabama!

While the latest round of “American Idol” contestants continue battling it out for the top spot, “Idol” alumni Bo Bice played to a full house in Thunder Valley Casino’s Pano Hall Friday evening. The crowd was a wide range of young and old.

For those non-“American Idol” fans, Bice was runner-up in season four, coming second to none other than Carrie Underwood. Being a proud Alabaman, Bice adopted Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit “Sweet Home Alabama” as his theme during his “Idol” journey. Alabama Governor Bob Riley even declared May 24 Bo Bice Day.

Bice hit the stage with “Keep on Rollin.’” He continued with two more upbeat songs until he got to “Country,” which was a slower medley of various hit songs that influenced him during his earlier years. He played several songs from his latest album, “3,” including “Long Road Back” and “Take Yourself with You,” which is dedicated to his mother. The crowd loved it start to finish and even gave him several standing ovations throughout his performance.

Bice has a great stage presence and never stopped moving, pointing and winking at people and making regular eye contact (an “American Idol” trademark). The only exception was those poor people in the front row. The way he was throwing the mic stand around was a little scary, and they were ducking for cover. OK, maybe not literally, but I bet they were thinking about it!

Bice thanked Thunder Valley several times and mentioned how impressed he was with their lighting system.

Just prior to performing “Sweet Home Alabama,” Bice left the stage to grab a custom guitar with an interesting local story. While visiting local radio station KNCI 105.1 FM last year, he admired another guitar which was custom-made by Woodshop Rocks for country music artist Brad Paisley. The bass guitar was an actual bass guitar, as in the fish variety. Way cool!

Turns out, Woodshop Rocks is a program at Roseville’s Buljan Middle School designed to teach seventh to 12th grade students the value of hard work, one guitar at a time. With woodshop programs getting cut all over the country, it’s refreshing to see a program like this survive, especially one that challenges students in an area that interests and motivates them. Not only do the students learn about woodworking, but math, science and, most importantly, life skills.

Bice contacted program leader Duane Calkins, and soon after student Brittany Brazil began helping design Bice’s brand-spanking-new guitar in the shape of — you guessed it — Alabama. The design includes the images of a number of Alabama music legends, plus the opening notes to  “Sweet Home Alabama” on the neck. You really need to check out Brazil’s work.

Earlier that day, Bice had visited Buljan Middle School to pick up his new guitar and treat the students to a performance of “Sweet Home Alabama.” He ended the story by introducing Calkins and Brazil, asking them to join him onstage and letting them know they would be performing “Sweet Home Alabama” with him onstage. 

I spoke to Calkins after the show, and he was under the impression nobody could hear him. Oh how wrong you were, Duane. We heard you and Brazil loud and clear! It sounded great, too. The audience loved it, and it was the best part of the performance.

If you haven’t been out to Thunder Valley to take in a concert, you really should think about treating yourself. Next month they kick off their summer series with Credence Clearwater Revisited on May 21, followed by The Fray on May 25.

Set list in the order performed:

• Keep on Rollin’
• Vehicle
• Long Road Back
• Country
• Different Shades of Blue
• Whipping Post
• Who Knows What
• Take Yourself with You
• Get on and Ride
• The Real Thing
• Witness
• Sweet Home Alabama
• Whiskey

Randy Miramontez is a contributing writer and photographer with The Sacramento Press.

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