From left, Jaime Hanna, his father Jeff Hanna, and Ross Holmes of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

I was among those, I’m sure, waiting all night to hear Fishin’ in the Dark. Like many in the audience, I was pleasantly surprised by the 22 other numbers the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band performed.

The band, now in its 51st year, played to a dancing-in-the-aisles crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Thursday.

With a sparsely-lit stage, no video screens, and six musicians, they flawlessly performed a night of greatest hits (An American Dream, Mr. Bojangles, Dance Little Jean) and classic country covers (Honky Tonkin’, The Weight, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere).

It was their second appearance at the SOEC — the first was back in 2009 — and they acknowledged that in their introduction. (Nice touch.) Several of their songs included lengthy instrumental playouts and solos, appropriate considering their most recent Grammy Award in 2004 was for best country instrumental.

The band has changed lineups throughout its history (remember The Dirt Band era?). Legendary songwriter Jackson Browne was a member in the first year of the band. Guest artists on their albums included Earl Scruggs. The two constants remain lead vocalist/guitarist Jeff Hanna and drummer/harmonica player Jimmie Fadden.

There was also Bob Carpenter on keyboards, Jim Photoglo on bass and Jaime Hanna (Jeff’s son) on guitar. While Jeff Hanna handled most of the lead vocals, each of the other four members sang lead on at least one song. The sixth member was multi-instrumentalist (mostly fiddle) Ross Holmes.

Jeff Hanna shared some of the band’s history, but omitted perhaps their greatest moment in pop culture — playing back-up on Steve Martin’s hit novelty song King Tut. Oh well, you can only get so much nostalgia into a 100-minute show.

As cornball as it sounds, Fishin’ in the Dark was indeed the concert highlight, coming as the third-last number. Released in 1987, it topped the Billboard country charts, but has remained popular — thanks in part to several remakes — ever since. An oldie but a goodie the first time you heard it. How can anybody not like this song?

Opening for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was Nice Horse, an all-female quartet from Alberta. Featuring guitarist Tara McLeod, banjo/guitarist Katie Rox, drummer Krista Wodelet and bassist Brandi Sidoryk, they played an all-too-short set of 30 minutes, showcasing songs from their debut release There Goes the Neighbourhood and finishing with a mash-up which included Dusty Springfield.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band invited the three vocalists from Nice Horse on stage for their two encores. (Great touch.)

Google “Nice Horse” and remember the band’s name. They’re really good. I hope they go somewhere.

James Miller is valley editor for Okanagan Newspaper Group.

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