Review by Jason Wert
While I thought it might be fun to title the review “The Haygoods: Now with 67% More Harp”, there’s a lot more to the Haygoods 2019 show than just an increase in harp related content.
The opportunity to review the Haygoods’ 2019 show came following my recent review of Reza: I had said that Reza’s show was possibly the top in Branson, but I hadn’t seen the Haygoods show yet. They had been, in my opinion, the top show in Branson for well over a decade and giving the crown to someone else without having seen their show felt like declaring Alabama national football champion without ever allowing Clemson to take the field.
As I was driving to the show, thinking about how I was going to compare their show to Reza’s, I realized something: the Haygoods had a problem. They had been on such an elite level for so long, it was very easy to underrate their performance because even what would be considered incredible for someone else would be an “as expected” for the Haygoods.
So I went into the show with the intent of seeing the show with “brand new eyes.” However, with the new eyes, I saw something in the show that stood out from previous Haygood shows and it involves one the key pieces of the puzzle: Timothy Haygood.
Timothy, and his alter-ego “Banjo Boy”, have long been a connecting piece of the Haygoods show. In addition to providing banjo-related music, he provides comedic relief and he picks on Dominic. If you’ve seen a Haygoods show, you know Timothy’s performances well.
But there was something different in this show. He seemed to be reaching for a level of performance that went far beyond anything he brought to the stage. His stage movements were crisper; his playing was more intense; the comedic segments had all the right pauses the right length to drive the comedy. It wasn’t that he was necessarily doing anything that different in terms of show; it was HIM. There was a level of intensity I had never seen from him during a show.
Since I’ve been using sports metaphors, let me keep up the theme. Timothy’s performance reminded me of some of the greatest athletes we know and love, such as a Michael Jordan. Players that transcend the game and could take over and dominate any given night during their prime. As they age, they’re still a focus and a driver for their team, but they begin to fade a little bit in their play. A few less points per game, the batting average and home run total slip a bit, etc.
Then most of the greats have that one season just before the end; a season where they remind the world of why they’re the greatest. A return to form where they dominate and their stats are on par with the best seasons they have ever had in their career.
That’s kind of how it felt watching Timothy.
It’s as if he was giving a performance like a man who had nothing left to lose. Even in the segments where all six of the Haygoods were performing, he still managed to pull the eye even if it was just for the overwhelming look of joy on his face.
Now, let me be clear, I am NOT saying that Timothy is in his last run or anything like that. I’m not anywhere near the inner or even outer circles of the Haygoods to know something like that. I’m just saying his performance came off as a man who knows time is running out and he wants to make sure that he goes out with everyone remembering the absolute peak he can bring to performing.
The rest of the Haygoods brought their A-game as usual. You would be hard pressed to find a segment of the show where they did not perform what appeared to be flawless show. One thing that did stand out was what I referred to in the opening of the review; an uptick in the amount of harp.
Over the years, as I watched many shows, I always felt like Catherine could have been more integral to the show. She is one incredibly talented woman and her work on the harp is brilliance in sound. Every time you saw her perform something on the harp in their show you couldn’t help but end up breathless.
This year’s show is no different, except that there was more. The family worked more harp into the show itself and in doing so brought a much deeper entertainment value to the show. The harp segments are so different from the rest of the show that it grows the audience’s appreciation for classical style music; Catherine’s playing ability shows those watching and listening the power that can come from an instrument some of them may have never seen until that night.
The expansion of Catherine’s role in the show is a serious plus to the production.
As I previously stated, the rest of the family (and, for the record, their non-Haygood drummer Dino) hit all their marks and brought a strong show. Matthew was a quintessential bass player, not really flashy, but a rock on the low end. Patrick a steady presence on the keys. Michael, the ball of energy on lead guitar, and the mad scientist brought the show’s pyrotechnics and LED light experiences to a new level. (I’m intentionally not telling you the changes made there; I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.)
Now, Dominic. The final Haygood I haven’t mentioned yet. In the past, he always stood out to me in the show as the “star” of the show. In this show, while he was still brilliant in his performance, he seemed to blend in with the rest of the family. Now, either it was a conscious decision on his part to be less of a focal point, or it was just the extremely elevated performance from Timothy, but it actually made him more effective in the overall show.
The withdrawal of sorts made the times he was the focal performance point stronger and highlighted his instrumental work.
So, if I have to only pick one show as the best in Branson, I have to say the Kings and Queen of the Strip are still firmly ensconced on their thrones; Reza will have to settle for being the best non-music show in Branson.