Review: Vince Gill and Amy Grant Celebrate Togetherness with Christmas at the Ryman

When Vince Gill and Amy Grant stepped onto the Ryman Auditorium stage on Wednesday (December 13) for the opening night of their 2023 Christmas at the Ryman residency, they created a sense of community. Their annual residency hosted at the historic venue in Nashville finds the husband and wife performing new arrangements of holiday classics, alongside beloved originals from both of their catalogs. Adorned by a set dressed in glittering white Christmas trees and life-size gift boxes, they opened the show by turning “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” into a spirited duet (Grant’s solo version is frequently heard on the radio during the holidays) and transforming “Jingle Bells” into a big band number where Grant took lead on vocals, scatting all the way.

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[Christmas at the Ryman with Amy Grant and Vince Gill: Get Tickets]

“You’re as perfect today as the day I first met you,” Gill praised of his wife, drawing an awed response from the crowd before quipping, “She told me to say that.” He then launched into a solo rendition of his favorite holiday tune, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” taking his time and inviting each word to shimmer while showing off the mellifluous tones in his voice. 

He and Grant then traded notes on a medley of holiday classics including “Winter Wonderland,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Sleigh Ride,” with Grant particularly shining on a surprise cover of the lovely Rosemary Clooney song, “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).” Meanwhile, Gill led a chill-inducing performance of “Little Town of Bethlehem” and had the support of stunning harmonies from the choir of background singers, which included his daughter Jennifer. Though Gill admitted that he was suffering from kidney stones (“If I yell a big four-letter word in the middle of a sweet song, I’ve either got Tourette’s or I just passed them,” he said to laughter from the crowd), that didn’t stand in the way of him putting on a stellar show with his wife of 23 years. He explained to the packed house how 2023 marks 30 years of him and Grant singing Christmas music together, beginning in 1993 when Grant performed on his Christmas special on TNN.  

[RELATED: Amy Grant and Vince Gill Return to Ryman Auditorium for Christmas At The Ryman]

After a jubilant cover of Brenda Lee’s hit “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” led by Grant, the couple turned their attention to original material that spoke to the heart of the night’s theme. “The best part about tonight is all of you. It’s all of us together,” Grant observed before launching into “To Be Together,” a touching ode to reuniting with loved ones at Christmas. “I’ve felt that way ever since 2020. Just gathering feels like a miracle.” She followed “To Be Together” with another poignant message, “I Need a Silent Night.” Co-written with Chris Eaton, Grant shared how she wrote the song for herself to cut through the noise and chaos of the holiday season. “It’s a song I love to dedicate to women because I wrote it because it was a message I needed to hear,” she expressed. “Life just goes faster and faster it feels like…It’s so good to take a moment and just feel the feels and sing about what’s true.”

Gill also offered his share of heartfelt moments, such as when he performed “It Won’t Be the Same This Year” which he wrote in the wake of his older brother Bob’s death in 1993, Gill attributed Bob to teaching him the meaning of Christmas. “This is about the only Christmas song I ever wrote because I wanted to write how much I miss him,” Gill shared.

The couple also weaved in non-Christmas songs that supported the themes of community and reflection as Grant performed one of her new songs, “Trees We’ll Never See.” “Sometimes the most important gifts we leave are the legacy of how we lived,” she expressed. “If you have the blessing of living many days and many years and many Christmases, you just see it from every angle. So the gifts aren’t just attached to Christmas. Sometimes we never see those gifts fully realized, we just plant the seeds,” setting up the heartfelt performance.

After a brief intermission, Gill opened the second half of the show with a beautiful, tender rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and welcomed “the sweetest girl in Nashville” back onstage for a bubbly duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” along with Grant’s 1993 hit that features background vocals from her husband, “House of Love.” Grant sounded simply stunning on her gospel-leaning ballad “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)“ which was followed by an equally compelling rendition of “O Holy Night” by Gill and the choir that sounded like angels. 

To end the show, Grant requested that everyone rise from their pews as she led a sing-a-long to a series of classic carols including “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night,” the crowd lighting up the Mother Church with their gentle voices that harmonized with Grant’s to make for a hauntingly beautiful moment that drove home the spirit of togetherness Grant spoke to at the start of the show. “The biggest gift that we have is being together,” she professed. “The gift of each other.” 

Christmas at the Ryman continues through December 23. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Room in the Inn, an organization that provides shelter to people who are unhoused during the winter months, in addition to providing, services, education, and workforce development. 

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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