GOSHEN — For nearly two hours, Emmylou Harris stood at a microphone, playing an accoustic guitar and singing with a clear, strong voice.
And 900 people who gathered in Goshen College’s Sauder Hall for the sold-out show applauded loud and long between songs.
Unless she was telling a story, she’d smile, but barely pause before charging into the next song with her band The Red Dirt Boys.
The college sold many of the tickets for the show through its Performing Arts Series subscriptions and probably could have sold twice as many tickets as it had.
But those who were in the hall to hear the six musicians, including the 12-time Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Fame member, got a rollicking ride through country history. Her set stretched for 26 songs, plus a two-song encore.
Harris, 65, will release her 27th studio album next month. In Saturday’s concert, she featured a number of songs from her last album, “Hard Bargain.”
“You’ve got to keep making those records or they take your license away,” she said. “They don’t let you go out on the road.”
She told a civil rights era story with “My Name is Emmitt Till” and paid tribute to her late friend Kate McGarrigle with “Darlin’ Kate.”
In between songs she gave music tips of artists she loved, explaining that she doesn’t know anything about the stock market and can’t give tips on that. Her concert was like being on a tour of country music history — hers and others.
She paid tribute to Kitty Wells, who died in July and Harris called her the “queen of country music.” Harris sang “Making Believe” as a waltz with her clear voice and backed by the great musicians.
She also paid tribute to George Jones by singing his “One of These Days,” which Harris said her 91-year-old mother loves. She also covered Lucinda Williams’ “Sweet Old World.”
Her fans got to hear her renditions of her own hits, including “Red Dirt Girl,” “Born to Run” and “Get Up John.”
The band members, particularly Rickie Simpkins playing mandolin and fiddle, backed her with strong vocals and tight instrumentals.
For one song, Harris gathered at the microphone with three band members for an a cappella version of “Calling My Children Home,” which she has played for decades and delivered Saturday with tight harmonies.
Harris spoke briefly of becoming a grandmother before singing “Goodnight Old World,” which she said was an “existential lullaby” because it wasn’t overly sweet. But Harris’s sweet voice put a child in the front row to sleep during that song.
She joked about her age and her career spanning four decades, though she’s not keeping track of time. “I’m still ready to go,” she said. “Time flies when you’re having fun and I’m having so much fun.”
She ended the concert by bringing out two of her rescue dogs on the stage and encouraging animal adoption. “You think you’re saving them but they really save you,” she said.
Those who love country music and good musicianship had a lot of fun at her concert. Norm Mast, host of “The Back Porch” on WVPE-FM, said, it was an opportunity of a lifetime to hear her and her band. “This is one for the memories,” he said.