This city is blanketed with churches. Downtown Presbyterian, Cross Point, First Baptist, Midtown Fellowship. But many of those who come here seek a different kind of spiritual kinship that can be found only at local shrines devoted to music: Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry House, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Historic RCA Studio B.

If these places were ranked in order of importance, purists might point to the Ryman, which was built in 1892 and housed the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 until 1974.

But it was the relatively new Opry House that beckoned on a hot August night.

I came to this city in north-central Tennessee for a conference and figured I'd better take advantage of some of the local offerings during my four days here.

Although my personal playlist doesn't include much country music, I thought it would be disrespectful not to visit the Opry, a live radio show and musical extravaganza that started nine decades ago as the "WSM Barn Dance" and has featured entertainers as diverse as the Fruit Jar Drinkers and Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, Boxcar Willie and Carrie Underwood.

I bought tickets for the show only, although some package deals include backstage tours and dinner.

The Grand Ole Opry House, which opened in 1974, is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Nashville. It's just down the road from the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, a complex that includes several restaurants and bars, a spa, the General Jackson Showboat and more than 2,700 hotel rooms.

"Subtlety" is not a word that comes to mind as you make your way to the performance hall. (Shows are staged at the Opry House from February through October; they move to the Ryman from November through January.)

The theater, which seats 4,400, is reminiscent of a megachurch. Visitors sit side by side in pews. Standing at the back of the auditorium, looking at the jewel-like colors of the stage backdrop, you may find yourself thinking of a stained-glass window.

The show was divided into four 30-minute segments, each with a performer/host and a series of musical acts, including an 85-year-old mandolin player as well as Holly Williams, a granddaughter of country music legend Hank Williams.

There were solo performers and big bands with backup singers and dancers, as well as pop tunes, country ballads and music that sounded as though it was first played in early 20th-century North Carolina. The evening felt like a throwback to another era, which, in a way, it was.

The Opry started as a radio show in 1925 and continues to be broadcast on WSM-AM (650) and on,, SiriusXM satellite radio and on an Opry mobile app.

At various points, four announcers stood on the side of the large stage and took turns reading their lines in praise of Dollar General or Cracker Barrel Old Country Store or the Humana health care company. All in the spirit of old-time radio? Mostly. Grandiloquent? Absolutely.

The first performing host of the evening, 68-year-old John Conlee, took the stage to sing "Common Man" and, later, "Backside of Thirty," and the audience members sang along. They were enthusiastic but respectful (for the most part), dressed in ensembles as varied as Sunday-go-to-meeting and six-pack-by-a-pool.

Conlee's sole guest for the first segment was Caitlin Rose, a 27-year-old whom Spin magazine praised as "something of a foil for Taylor Swift." Her dress and manner were modest yet assured. The crowd loved her, but the crowd seemed to love every performer.

The show also featured the Willis Clan, a family of 12 siblings with shiny hair and big smiles who competed in 2014 on "America's Got Talent," and Jesse McReynolds, the octogenarian mandolin master.