Saturday, August 1, 2009

Trace and Toby kick it at Sprint Center

Trace Adkins and Toby Keith brought their country stud, flag-waving brand of country music to the Sprint Center on Friday night and, to the delight of the close-to-capacity crowd, hit hard at a lineup littered with songs about "hot mamas," beer-drinkin', bars, country boys and rednecks.

The opening act, Sean Patrick McGraw, played a short set to start the evening, reminding the crowd on more than one occasion that "you can find us on MySpace, Facebook, i-Tunes and there are CDs to buy out front." McGraw is an engaging sort who sings and performs in a Toby kind-of-way, so the 20-minute set by he and his Nashville bandmates did a good job of priming the crowd for what was to come.

Adkins played for approximately 45 minutes and sang all of his hits, save the newer "Til the Last Shot's Fired." When he walked out on stage, my first reaction was "whew--big dude." With his flowing mane of hair, his glower, and his tigher-than-tight jeans, Adkins can be a menacing presence. His stage presence, though, is one of "I'm here for you" and he aims to please the crowd. It's obvious that the ladies think he performs quite nicely, thank you. His songs were complemented by clips of his videos throughout the performance.

After the obligatory Ford long-form commercial, starring himself, Toby Keith hit the stage with pyrotechnics, his usual tight band behind him and a catalog of hits from which to draw. His set was close to what he performed the last time I saw him in Kansas City--songs like "I Love This Bar," "Weed," "I Ain't As Good As I Once Was," "Get Drunk and Be Somebody," "How Do You Like Me Now" and "I Wanna Talk About Me." For "Whiskey Girl," Keith recruited several local "whiskey girls" to join him on stage for a choreographed dance routine during the song. (Trust me--they didn't look like the "whiskey girl" from the song's video.)

Keith ended the night with a two-song encore--the expected "American Soldier" coupled with the flag-waving "Angry American." The highlight on the latter was that Adkins joined Keith on stage--two guys proud to share their feelings about those protecting our country and their patriotism, in a very unapologetic fashion.

The Kansas City Star had an article the day before the concert intimating that Keith may be on the backside decline that happens with any major artist's career. That may be--the arena was probably 95% full but it's hard to tell whether that was due to any waning popularity or just the reality of our economy. Keith did prove that he's still a very good, hard-working, crowd-pleasing entertainer. He may not be "as good as he once was," but he's still one of the marquee artists in country music.

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