A Word from Cheryl:


Thank you for visiting my Concert Review Blog. I have enjoyed attending, photographing and writing about a variety of concerts over the past several years. I hope that my reviews and photos have made you feel like you were right there with me.


At this time in my life I've taken a step back, looked at what’s truly important and have begun to prioritize my time, energy and resources.

I retired from nursing in 2012 and was then able to be with my aging father, who later passed away in June, 2013.

My family is growing dramatically! We now have eight grandchildren and I take every opportunity to be available to help when needed. I also make sure I carve out plenty of time for my husband so that he knows how important he is to me.

Because of this I don't attend many concerts anymore. I try to be selective in choosing a show and do my best to relax and enjoy the experience. I no longer stress about getting the perfect photo or remembering some occurrence so I can write about it.

If you want to view a collection of some of my favorite photos from the past several years you may find them here:
Cheryl's Pearls Photos - Concerts

Thanks again for visiting my site.

May God Bless,
Cheryl

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Neil Diamond - for the Young at Heart


I was in the car on my way to Northern Virginia with my 94 year old Dad and his girlfriend. My Mom passed away in 2005 and Dad’s been dating Rosemary for 2 years now. “Did you know Neil Diamond is going to be in Charlottesville December 8th? “ Rosemary asked. I replied that I had already purchased tickets to go with one of my co-workers. “Oh I wish I’d known, I would love to go!” Rosemary sighed. I told her I thought there were still tickets available if she wanted me to check then turned to look at Dad, “Would you like to go see Neil Diamond?” I asked. “Sure, I’ve always wanted to go to a big concert,” he replied with a wink and the game was afoot.

Mirna and I arrived early to collect Dad and Rosemary for our big outing. Dad was a little concerned about being able to hear as he confessed his hearing aid had been sent out for repairs. “Oh, I think the concert will be loud enough for you, Dad.” I said

After eating at Panera Bread and almost losing Dad and Rosemary in Barnes and Noble we finally drove to John Paul Jones Arena an hour before show time. I got a good parking spot so we didn’t have far to walk. Rosemary came prepared to crochet during the long wait before the show started. I gave everyone their tickets and we went through the check points. Mirna and I went first. Purses were thoroughly searched since no cameras were allowed. I thought Dad and Rosemary were right behind us but when I turned around I didn’t see them. I looked back at security and heard Rosemary say, “Weapon? That’s not a weapon! It’s a crochet hook! It’s not even sharp on the end!!” To which the security guy replied in his kindest tone, “I’m sorry ma’am but you’re going to have to leave it behind.” “But what must I do with it??!” Rosemary asked as I drew closer. I couldn’t hear what the gentleman told her as I offered to take the offensive little hook back to the car. She wasn’t having any of it. She continued to plead her case with security and I noticed Dad standing off to the side with a big grin on his face. Rosemary was finally allowed to stow her crochet hook under a table outside the main entrance.

Unfortunately we didn’t purchase our tickets at the same time so we weren’t seated together. Mirna and I escorted Dad and Rosemary to their seats and determined to meet back at the “crochet hook table” after the concert. The ushers offered the elevator but Dad said there was no need, he could manage steps just fine, thank you very much, after all he square dances once a week. Then he pulled me aside and asked “There aren’t that many steps are there?” I assured him he would be fine. We left them at their seats and headed across the arena to where our seats were located.

I noticed there were people of all ages attending Neil Diamond’s concert that night from college kids to folks my Dad’s age. Everyone was singing along to the classics like “Cherry, Cherry,” “I Am I Said,” “I’m A Believer,” “Holly, Holy.” Neil even got a standing ovation for “Sweet Caroline,” and repeated the chorus. I overheard some college girls appreciate this because that was the only song they knew.

Neil told announced that proceeds from the merchandise sold at his concerts would go to benefit the people of Galveston and Houston, Texas devastated by Hurricane Ike. After hearing him sing “Man of God,” “America,” and “Brother Love’s Travellin’ Salvation Show” I felt like I’d been at a big tent revival. It was great!

Published:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Kevin Costner in Alexandria, VA - December 2, 2008


Kevin Costner: Following His Dreams

Kevin Costner appeared at The Birchmere in Alexandria on December 2nd with his band Modern West. That’s right, Kevin Costner sings and plays guitar. My friend, Pat, recently interviewed Kevin for an upcoming issue of Country Weekly magazine and she invited me to accompany her to the show.

When we arrived the place was packed and I was concerned about getting a good seat. I needn’t have worried. We were on the guest list and our seats had been reserved right up front. How awesome was that? Pat had even been given backstage passes and we were both pretty excited about meeting Kevin Costner before the show. The first thing I noticed when we walked backstage was how tall Kevin was, and then as we chatted I was impressed by his casual charm, humor, and sincerity. Pat and I practically floated back to our seats.

As Kevin explained from the stage, many of his friends told him he was crazy to pursue a career in singing. He had achieved so much in life as a successful actor and director – why mess things up? But his wife encouraged him to follow his dreams, especially after seeing him come alive performing with his band.

Costner humbly took the stage with his band Modern West at The Birchmere and said he hoped we would enjoy their brand of rock and roll. He then looked out at the crowd and said with a smile, “Wow, you guys are a lot taller in person.” The audience laughed because he just said what we were all thinking about him and he knew it.

He said they would be playing some new songs during the evening then said, “Who am I kidding? They’re probably all new songs to you guys.” Since Costner co-wrote several of the songs on his album Untold Truths, he introduced each selection with a story or explanation.

The idea for the song “5 Minutes from America” was conceived on a trip to the gulf coast after the devastation of hurricane Katrina during the filming of The Guardian. The song “Don’t Lock Him Away” was written as a word of advice to the young girl featured in the movie Swing Vote. “Find That Girl” is based on his real life experience of seeing that special someone in a crowded room and being unable to meet her because of the crowd. Kevin shyly confessed after the song that he did indeed find that girl and make her his wife.

Before singing “Every Intention” Kevin asked the ladies in the room to give men a break because they all make mistakes. As he finished the song he placed his hand over his heart and faced left, right and center saying “Sorry” to every woman in the room, apologizing on behalf of all men. This probably didn’t earn any points with the guys but certainly won the hearts of the ladies.

The most endearing story Costner told was about learning to ride a Sting-Ray bicycle as a young boy. He had complained to his mom that he couldn’t keep pace with the other boys. She took an ace of spades and clipped it on the rear spokes with a clothes pin and told him that he’d be the leader of the pack. Kevin figured if one would make him fast, the whole deck would make him faster but unfortunately the tire wouldn’t budge with all those cards. That’s when he learned that less is more. However, he still couldn’t keep up with the boys so his mom took a bath towel, pinned it to his shirt and told him he would fly on that bike. Thus the song “Superman 14” was born.

Throughout the evening I was thoroughly entertained by Kevin’s stories and songs. He may not have a polished voice but he can hold his own. His band mates are extremely talented and complement him greatly. He truly does come alive on that stage, having fun making music with his band.

Published in the Start Exponent:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lady Antebellum in Salem, VA - November 14, 2008

LADY ANTEBELLUM
VOTED NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
I first saw Lady Antebellum in the summer of 2007 during CMA Fest in Nashville, TN.  There was a buzz about them even then.  They were known as “the group to watch.”  Lady Antebellum consists of two guys and a girl: singer Charles Kelley, brother to popular artist, Josh Kelley; singer/guitarist Dave Haywood; and singer Hillary Scott, daughter of country music artist Linda Davis.

I really enjoyed their performance so I purchased their CD when it came out.  Along with it came a free subscription to the Lady Antebellum Fan Club.  When I heard they were coming to the Salem Civic Center in Salem, VA with Jason Aldean November 14th I decided to pay a visit to my friend, Kristen, who lives in Salem and both of us went to the concert.

My Fan Club membership gave me 2 passes to meet Lady Antebellum, one for me and one for my friend.  I take photos for a radio station website and they obtained a couple of meet and greet passes for me as well.  This provided an opportunity for me to share my bounty with others.  How would I choose who to take with me?

I scanned the crowd and noticed a mother and daughter near the back of the Civic Center lost in conversation.  I approached them and asked who they were more excited to see, Jason Aldean or Lady Antebellum.  “We like them both,” they replied.

I asked if they had seen Lady Antebellum win the CMA Award for New Artist of the Year on TV earlier in the week.  “Oh yes! We were so excited for them” they exclaimed.  “Would you like to meet them?” I asked.  The little girl’s eyes got as big as saucers as the mother said, “Are you serious?”

“Come with me” I said as I lead them to the backstage area where we were all gathered to meet Lady Antebellum.  We chatted while we waited.  Lakyn is 10 years old and in the 5th grade.  She and her mom, Leesa had driven 2 hours from their home in Rocky Gap, VA to attend the concert.  They didn’t have a camera to take a photo with Lady Antebellum but I offered mine when the time came.

We lined up for our “moment” and out through the curtain came Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley.  Kristen and I went first then I introduced Leesa and Lakyn to “Lady A” as they are affectionately known to their fans.  They were very gracious and unhurried signing autographs and welcoming her to the show.  Lakyn was clearly star struck as she gazed up at them all.  Just before the photo was taken Lakyn almost fell through the temporary backdrop but Hillary caught her.  Afterwards Lakyn said, “I’m never washing my jacket again - Hillary touched it!” She was so excited.

The concert was extremely entertaining.  Lady Antebellum clearly deserves the recognition they’ve gotten recently.  With tight harmonies and a high energy performance, they take turns sharing the spotlight and have a rollicking good time on stage which is irresistible - you can’t help smiling and tapping to the beat.

When I got home I e-mailed Leesa and Lakyn their individual photo and received this in reply, “You don’t know how much your kindness touched us.  You made a little girl’s night.  Thank you so much and we wish you and your family a Happy Holiday Season.”

You know, watching that little girl’s eyes light up and sharing in her joy blessed my heart beyond measure.  It was the highlight of my evening so, no Leesa and Lakyn, thank YOU!

Published in the Star Exponent 11/28/08 - Making a Little Girls Dream Come True

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Reba and Kelly in Charlottesville - Oct. 30, 2008

REBA AND KELLY – 2 WORLDS, 2 VOICES

Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson arrived in Charlottesville a day before all the trick-or-treaters came out for Halloween.  Their performance was certainly a “treat” for those of us fortunate enough to be at John Paul Jones Arena on Thursday, October 30th.

Both Reba and Kelly were complimentary of our fair state of Virginia with all the beautiful fall foliage.  Reba, age 53, hails from Oklahoma while Kelly, a mere 26 years old, claims the lone star state of Texas as home.

I remember watching the 2007 “CMT Crossroads” episode that paired 2002 American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson with country music legend Reba McEntire.  I was curious to see Reba singing some of Kelly’s songs and vice versa.  It turned out to be a great show and obviously they enjoyed working together because they created this tour called “2 Worlds, 2 Voices”.

It's amazing to me to see someone as well known and talented as Reba McEntire take a newcomer like Kelly Clarkson under her wing, teach her to "fly" and give her freedom to soar!   Reba is obviously very secure in who she is.  She’s willing to take risks and try something different by singing some of Kelly’s rock songs.  Reba isn’t one of those artists that have to have the limelight all the time.  She and Kelly take turns singing backup vocals for each other.

Kelly bounced across the sage in bare feet throughout the evening while Reba did her fair share of country music swing and line dance stepping.  They honestly looked as though they were having a blast on stage which in turn made it fun for the audience.

At one point Kelly gave a rather lengthy introduction to a song then just as they got ready to sing she realized the intro was meant for a different song.  She became flustered, looked at Reba and said, “Why didn’t you stop me?” to which Reba nonchalantly replied, “Aww, I figured you’d get there eventually…”   We all had a good laugh at Kelly’s expense before they launched into the next song.  Reba, ever the professional, remained unfazed and supportive. Kelly was embarrassed but sang flawlessly with a rather sheepish look on her face.   It was a truly funny moment that showed their humanity and the audience loved them for it!

Reba and Kelly have been gifted with power-house vocals and fantastic control.  It was delightful to listen to them sing individually and in duets together.   Their harmonies were wonderful and their enthusiasm contagious.

Published in the Star Exponent 11/6/08
Two Worlds, Two Voices Tour


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pajama Jam in Roanoke, VA - October 3, 2006

 
PAJAMA JAM 2008

With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month my girlfriends and I were pretty excited about the Pajama Jam held at the Hotel Roanoke.  What is a Pajama Jam you ask?  Well it’s an event sponsored by a radio station in Roanoke, VA, to benefit the American Cancer Society and you get to attend in your PJs.  That’s right – over 900 women went to a gigantic pajama party where we enjoyed a delicious dinner, heard country music artists perform and got to bid on various items for charity.  We had a blast!     

There were ladies of all ages, shapes and sizes wearing a variety of pajamas and crazy slippers.  I loved looking at the creative designs and funny slippers.  We laughed a lot!

I was looking forward to the entertainment but came away incredibly inspired by the women who were there.  A few came directly to the hotel after receiving their radiation or chemotherapy treatments in order to support the cause and have a night of fun.  There were numerous cancer survivors in attendance.  One woman, Nicole Cagle, shared her courageous story of survival with such a fun-loving, positive spirit you couldn’t help but be moved.  She is currently in her fourth battle with cancer and she challenged us to take time for ourselves and the more important things in life.  We sat at the table next to her and during the entertainment I noticed she was up dancing once or twice with a big grin on her face.

The Pajama Jam was first organized in 2003 by Robynn Jaymes, a Roanoke, VA radio station DJ who is herself a cancer survivor.  “I am very humbled by the support of this community!  It all started with a PJ party and trying to make women not just aware, but to take action.  I’ve learned personally that early detection is the best protection,” said Robynn.

The Lost Trailers, Jimmy Wayne and Joe Nichols were the entertainment for the evening but Jimmy Wayne had to cancel due to vocal problems and doctor’s orders.  The Lost Trailers and Joe Nichols certainly didn’t seem to mind being the only males in a conference room full of women.

The Lost Trailers (comprised of Ryder Lee, Stokes Nielson, Andrew Nielson, Jeff Potter, and Manny Medina) ventured into the crowd a few times to serenade several women much to their delight.  Joe Nichols was joined on stage by a lucky birthday girl and treated her to a personal rendition of “Happy Birthday” in his best Elvis impersonation.

After ticket sales, auction items and other donations, a total of $40,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society.  A grand total of $140,000 has been raised over the past 5 years with the Pajama Jam.  That’s an impressive figure.
 
The girls and I plan to make the Pajama Jam an annual event.  You see, it became even more relevant when I returned home and discovered someone close to me had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Almost everyone I talk to knows a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with some type of cancer.   Please support the American Cancer Society… and maybe I’ll see you at next year’s Pajama Jam sharing good times with your friends and celebrating life!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Martina McBride in Bristow, VA - September 27, 2008

 
MARTINA McBRIDE – A LADY FOR THESE TIMES 
 
Martina McBride was the perfect choice to close out the concert season for Nissan Pavilion September 27th.  Even with heavy downpours of rain there were committed fans that cheered and sang and stayed to the very end.  They were rewarded for their faithfulness.  Prior to the show fans were videotaped writing their hopes and dreams on a white board and it was shown on the big screen as Martina sang her recent single, “For These Times.”  Cheers erupted for various comments written, causing Martina to turn as she sang to see what was on the video screen.


Martina has a delightful stage presence.  You know how folks will gather in front of a stage to get their picture “with the artist” while they’re singing?  I watched this happen several times but once when a young lady posed in front of Martina for a photo-op Martina leaned down, held up two fingers over the girl’s head and gave her “rabbit ears” for the photo.  The girl was oblivious to what was going on behind her.  It was priceless!

Before the concert started a young Marine approached our section and asked for a marker so Martina could sign his cap.  I happened to have one in my purse and gave it to him thinking he wouldn’t possibly have the chance to get it signed nor would I probably ever see that marker again.  I was wrong on both counts.  Mid-way through the concert between songs security allowed him to approach the stage.  He asked Martina to sign his cap and she said, “I can’t sign this,” to which he replied, “It would be my honor to have your name on it.”  Martina signed his cap, handed it back to him and said, “Thank you very much!”  His name?  USMC Staff Sergeant Jonny Nobel.

Martina McBride has to be the most gracious artist I’ve seen in recent months.  As she neared the end of her set she commented that she’s been singing for many years and she deeply appreciates the fact that people still come out to hear her.  She truly loves to sing and always tries to pour her heart out every time she performs.  I believe her too.  Her vocals were spine tingling as she sang “Broken Wing,” “Independence Day,” “Concrete Angel,” and “Anyway.”   Nobody sings those songs like Martina!  Did you know she can play harmonica?  Yep.  She played it during “Loves the Only House.”  And that’s not all; she has a brother in the band who plays guitar.  Talent runs in the family.

Martina affectionately referred to her opening acts as “the boys” acknowledging that they were sure to have gotten the crowd warmed up for her and indeed they did.

Jason Michael Carroll was first to shake things up singing, “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead.”  He moved us all with his ballad “Alyssa Lies” – the first time I heard it on the radio, it stopped me in my tracks.  If you’ve never heard it before, you should give it a listen.  When his 3 year old son, JW, emerged holding a Guitar Hero guitar during the final song, “Waitin’ In the Country” you could hear a collective “Awww….” from the audience.    I’ve seen my own 3 year old grandson mimic his father with those Guitar Hero guitars so it was especially poignant for me.

Next up was Jack Ingram whose goal was to get everyone in the Pavilion on their feet participating at least once.  He proved to be very convincing.  If he saw you sitting down he pointed you out to the camera man.  He encouraged audience participation on his older songs, “Keep on Keepin’ On” and “Barbie Doll” but it was his newer hits, “Lips of An Angel,” “Wherever You Are” and “Love You” that had the crowd singing along.  Jack is obviously a people person because he jumped down from the stage and mingled with the crowd for a few minutes during his set.  He took photos with one fan and chatted with some girls who had seen him jogging earlier in the day.  He had asked them if they were looking forward to seeing Jack Ingram that night and they’d replied, “Jack who?”  I bet they know who he is now!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Brooks and Dunn in Charlottesville, VA - September 7, 2008


BROOKS & DUNN PLAY CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA

Even if you don’t know many country music artists, I’d venture to guess you’ve probably heard the name “Brooks & Dunn.”   Winning Country Music Association’s ”Vocal Duo of the Year” award practically every year since 1992, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn must be doing something right.  Judging from their performance at JPJ Arena September 7th, it’s apparent they’ve done their homework.  Blending old favorites with new songs they captured the audience the moment they stepped onto the stage.

Well known for their high energy shows, Kix Brooks kept things lively with his enthusiastic personality and guitar playing while Ronnie Dunn interacted with the crowd, at one point playing cowbell, tossing drumsticks to fans.  Kix also played harmonica and flirted with the female back-up singers, all in good fun.  Songs like “She Likes To Get Out of Town,” “Play Something Country,” “You Can’t Take the Honky Tonk (Out of the Girl), “Hillbilly Delux,” and their new single “Put a Girl In It” are so upbeat it’s hard to stay seated, you just want to get up and dance!  In fact one lucky girl in the front row was hoisted onto the stage to do-se-do and go for a spin with Kix Brooks.  He literally spun her around until they were both a little dizzy.  She’ll definitely have something to tell the folks back home!

Ronnie Dunn, who was dressed in black, appears to be the more reserved member of the duo.  His vocals are delivered with power and conviction and when he sang “Believe” I got goose bumps.  It was beautiful.  But that wasn’t the only song that proved to be emotional during the show.  As Brooks & Dunn sang “Only In America” several service men marched to the end of catwalk, stood at attention and saluted while red, white and blue streamers cascaded down upon the crowd.

Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn sure know how to weave a show together.  With up-tempo songs like “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Brand New Man,” and “Red Dirt Road,” mixed with ballads like “Neon Moon” and “My Maria” you feel like you’re riding a wave and when it’s over you think, “Wow! That was FUN!

Rodney Atkins opened for Brooks & Dunn. I remember the first time I saw Rodney.  I was in Nashville at the 2006 CMA Festival.  His drummer, Kevin, actually invited me to the Riverfront to listen to his band and asked if I’d ever heard their song, “If You’re Going Through Hell.”  It had just begun to get some air play on the radio and I’d heard it a few weeks before so my girlfriends and I went to the Riverfront and saw Rodney and the band perform.  He was terrific and still is.

I got a chance to catch up with both Kevin and Rodney backstage in Charlottesville.   They are delightful young men and I’m so glad that Rodney’s songs have done well on country radio.  He was quite excited about opening for Brooks & Dunn.

 Rodney Atkins exhibits a down home country charm when on stage, comfortably chatting and joking with the audience.  He sings “These Are My People” with enthusiasm using a spotlight to shine on “his people” in the crowd.  He has quite a sense of humor as evidenced by the song, “Cleaning This Gun” about a father’s advice to a boy who wants to date his daughter.  He wrote the song “Watching You” with his son Elijah in mind and I noticed while singing it at JPJ Arena he changed the words “Scooby Doo night light” to “Spiderman night light” so I assume Elijah is a fan of Spiderman these days.

Published in the Star Exponent 9-19-08 - Brooks and Dunn Get Down




Saturday, August 9, 2008

American Idol in Washington, D.C. - August 14, 2008


AMERICAN IDOL IN D.C.

My husband and I gradually got hooked on the show “American Idol” this past year and as we watched the eliminations week after week we began to choose our favorites.  We’d talk about their performances and I confess I even voted occasionally for the one I thought deserved to win.

When we heard the American Idol Tour was coming to the Verizon Center in Washington, DC August 14th, we got tickets to go.  I was looking forward to seeing the Top Ten Idols perform.  I tried not to let the crowded metro ride into the city and hour long wait to be seated for dinner dampen my enthusiasm for the evening.

The show was well worth the wait!  No matter which Idol was your favorite there was something for everyone since each of the Top Ten finalists had solo time on stage.  

Here’s my “take” on the show:

Chikezie Eze was a good choice to open the concert.  He was upbeat and lively singing “Hey Mama” (Kanye West) and “Caught Up” (Usher).   The crowd was really pumped by the time Chikezie left the stage.

Little Ramiele Malubay was the weakest link as far as performances go.  Her dance number – “I Want You Back” (Jackson 5) – was perky but she just didn't seem as relaxed as the others did on stage.  After singing two slow songs without much interaction with the crowd, what Chikezie had pumped up was now deflated by Miss Malubay.

Thank goodness for Michael Johns!  He came onto the stage like he owned it singing “We Are the Champions” (Queen).   He was quite comfortable in the spotlight, chatting with the audience, commenting how big the Verizon Center was and yet it felt very intimate to him.   His soulful rendition of “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right” (Dolly Parton) had the ladies swooning.  He said Randy Jackson didn’t care for his next number - “Dream On” by Aerosmith - but he was going to sing it anyway and it brought the house down.  Michael appeared to be genuinely appreciative of the crowd's response to his performance.

I prepared myself for another slow down when Kristy Lee Cook came out but she was surprisingly good!  She worked the stage well, covering both sides and the center catwalk.  She opened with “Tryin’ To Squeeze the Love Outta You” (Carolyn Dawn Johnson) and her version of “God Bless the U.S.A.” (Greenwood) had folks standing, hands over their hearts.  Kristy shared that she and Carly (Smithson) toured the White House earlier in the day and it made quite an impression on both of them.

Carly Smithson did not fail to impress with her big vocal range and ability.  “Crazy On You” (Heart) was amazing however she kept fidgeting with her mic and ear piece the entire time she was on stage.  Once she turned around and mouthed something to the band.  Obviously there was a sound problem but none of the other Idols seemed to experience it.  I enjoyed her songs but all that fidgeting really took away from her performance.

Brooke White emerged through a trap door, center stage – barefoot and seated at a piano.  She was very confident and all smiles.  Everybody raves about how well Brooke sings “Let It Be” (Beatles) but I personally preferred her performance of “Yellow” (Coldplay) – it was a perfect fit for her.

Jason Castro sat on a stool with his ukulele to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Iz Version) and walked to the mic on the catwalk to sing “What a Day for a Daydream” (Lovin’ Spoonful).   His voice was nice, but not fantastic.  His approach to the stage seemed very casual and laid back. “Mellow” has been a term frequently applied to Jason and it’s appropriate.  He never ventured to either side of the stage to interact with the crowd and whenever he actually DID speak, it came out as a mumble, at least to my ears.  I overheard the guys behind me say in disbelief “I can’t believe this guy lasted so long on the show!”  Me either.

Syesha Mercado was very energetic during her set performing “Umbrella” (Rihanna).  She received a standing ovation after a powerful rendition of Beyonce’s “Listen” and stood there with a look of surprised delight on her face, basking in the glow.  When she finished her set, it was her responsibility to introduce the “runner-up” on American Idol…

And yes, the girls screamed for young David "aw shucks" Archuleta.  He really does have an amazing voice.  I was totally impressed with his performance.  He, too emerged through a trap door, seated at a piano with mist swirling around him, singing “Angels”(Robbie Williams) – absolutely magical.  I also enjoyed his performance of “Apologize” (Timbaland).  It seems “Archie” has been working on his stage presence; he didn’t look as stiff as I thought he might.

When David Cook walked out I was surprised to see him in a suit and tie!  He jokingly said he was running for president then later explained he had visited the Senate on behalf of his brother for Cancer Research.  Personally I wish he’d performed in his rocker duds, I think he’d have been more comfortable since I noticed he kept tugging at his suit sleeves while playing guitar - oh well, he was incredible anyway.  He’s definitely at home on stage and at one point took out a video camera and began filming the audience.   I  LOVED his opening number of "Hello" (Lionel Richie) and of course, his rendition of "Billie Jean" (Michael Jackson) is one of my David Cook favorites.  The tribute to his brother - "My Hero" (Foo Fighters) - was a bit too rocky for my taste but there was something for everyone...

All ten finalists came out for a group performance of “Don’t Stop the Music” (Rihanna) and then, just like that, it was over.  Three hours had gone by in a flash and left us all wanting more.


Published in the Star Exponent 8-21-08 - Idols Show They've Improved




Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rascal Flatts in Bristow, VA - July 26, 2008

FLATTS AND SWIFT PLAY FOR A SELL OUT CROWD
Five Rascal Flatts concerts, three years of observing their career, finally getting to meet them… priceless!  I confess I was as excited as the numerous school girls I saw attending Saturday’s Rascal Flatts concert at Nissan Pavilion July 26th.  I had prepared a small gift bag for “The Guys” (Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney, and Jay DeMarcus) as a token of my appreciation for their music.  Inside was coffee from The Frenchman’s Corner, concert photos, carved wooden crosses by my Dad and a personal note of thanks from me.  In a today’s culture where we often hear negative messages in lyrics, Rascal Flatts remains upbeat and positive.  They have also been extremely generous in giving their time and money to worthy causes, one being the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN.  Can you tell I’m impressed with these young men?

There were 80+ people backstage to meet Rascal Flatts and after standing in line for 40 minutes it was finally my turn.  I handed my gift to Gary LeVox and told him I’d been waiting three years to meet them.  He said, “Well come on over here!” throwing his arm around me for a hug.  Joe Don heard there was coffee in the bag and said, “Oh boy!  Thank you so much” and both he and Jay DeMarcus gave me hugs.   I noticed how each one made eye contact and sincerely thanked me for being a fan and coming to the show.   The “Meet and Greet” didn’t last long but the guys made the most of the short time they had with every person they met.

When my husband and I made our way into the Pavilion for the concert we were amazed by lack of empty seats.  The place was packed!  Reports of it being a sold out show were no exaggeration. 

Rascal Flatts exploded onto the stage – literally.  There was a loud BANG and the curtain fell revealing a folding staircase that lowered, releasing the guys into bright lights and smoke.  Throughout the evening there were flashing light shows and dancers in the background but the show belonged to Rascal Flatts.  They opened with the title cut from their latest CD “Still Feels Good” and moved into the popular “Life Is A Highway.”  The crowd roared its approval, waving arms in the air and pumping fists.  During the night Gary LeVox borrowed hats from various people in the audience, wore them for a while then tossed them back.   Jay DeMarcus entertained us with his impersonation of phone conversations between ladies planning their “girl’s night out” to see Rascal Flatts in concert.  He even gave us a sample of the way women walk.  Personally I think he needs a little more practice…

Joe Don Rooney gave an acoustic guitar performance as he sang “I’m Movin’ On” and Jay De Marcus accompanied himself on the keyboard as he sang “Skin (Sarah Beth)” but the rest of the evening belonged to Gary LeVox and his strong vocal skills.  Whether they are singing ballads like “My Wish,” “Bless the Broken Road,” “Feels Like Today” or rousing numbers like “Fast Cars and Freedom” and “Me and My Gang,” their blend of harmonies is so rich you find yourself smiling and wanting to join in.

 As for the opening act, Miss Taylor Swift, who is all of 19 years old with a stage presence of someone who has been performing for many years, all I can say is this girl is going places!  She’s spirited and fun and she sang several of her hits.  During “Our Song,” “Teardrops on My Guitar,” and “Tim McGraw” she was sweet and demur but when it came to “Picture to Burn” and “Should’ve Said No” she let loose.  In fact she beat on garbage cans with drumsticks demonstrating her rage when her boyfriend should have said no to an offer from another girl.

You can believe what you’ve heard about Taylor Swift appreciating her fans.  She met many of them before the concert and I was blessed to be one of them.  In person she’s tall and willowy, glowing with personality.  She posed for photos and signed autographs.  One young boy had a sign that said, “Taylor, you can drive my truck when I get one.”  She laughed and signed his sign.  I’ve seen her perform at a benefit concert in Nashville, open for both George Strait, and Brad Paisley so I put together a photo collage to give her.  She said, “Is this for ME??” and was very sweet.

At the end of Rascal Flatts’ show Taylor emerged wearing a Washington Redskins Jersey with “Taylor” across the back to the delight of fans.

Be sure to watch for Taylor’s newest song “Change” to be played during the 2008 Olympics.  Yes indeed, she’s definitely one to keep an eye on.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brad Paisley in Bristow, VA - July 12, 2008

­ 
PAISLEY PARTY COMES TO TOWN



“I don’t care which political party you belong to: Republican or Democrat – tonight you’re all members of the Paisley Party and we’re gonna have a good time!” Brad Paisley exclaimed as he took the stage July 13th at Nissan Pavilion.  Trust me, with Paisley at the helm you’re going to have a fantastic concert experience.  From the moment he stepped into the spotlight and walked down the catwalk reaching far into the crowd he took command.   Opening with “Mud on the Tires” and quickly moving through “Better Than This” and “The World,” Brad Paisley dazzled the crowd with his incredible guitar skills and ever changing selection of uniquely designed paisley guitars.

Mid-way through the concert I was mesmerized by the creative, computer generated cartoon animation utilized to introduce Brad and his band members in the form of superheroes battling super villains.  More impressive was the fact that the animation was done by Brad Paisley himself.

Several times throughout the evening on-screen images played an important role in the musical numbers.  Alison Krauss made a virtual appearance to sing “Whiskey Lullaby” with Brad.  Dierks Bentley appeared briefly on screen for a humorous exchange during “Celebrity” and a previously recorded B.B. King announced “B.B. and B.P. are back in town!” launching into a rousing guitar number.  We experienced a sense of loss and appreciation for those who have gone before as Brad sang “When I Get Where I’m Going” while a montage of familiar faces (Ronald Regan, John F. Kennedy, crew members of the Challenger space shuttle, Dale Earnhardt, Porter Wagoner, and more recently Tim Russert) flashed on the screen.

Brad Paisley has the remarkable ability to move from sensitive ballads into witty, fun-loving songs with ease.  Preparing us for something new, in true Paisley fashion he said “this is one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever written” and with a tender touch on the guitar he proceeded to sing, “She just wants me to support her, and the best way that I’ve found, …with a gentle hand and a loving touch, I put that toilet seat down.”

Jewel with Brad Paisley
Opening for Brad was Dancing with the Stars sensation, Julianne Hough, who’s lively performance included her latest hit, “That Song in My Head.”  Chuck Wicks from the short lived show “Nashville” performed his hit single, “Stealing Cinderella” as well as his new release, “All I Ever Wanted.”  The folk/pop/country artist, Jewel, was probably the most well known of the opening acts.  She sang “Stronger Woman” and “I Do” from her recent album but received greater applause for her older works, “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “You Were Meant for Me” ending her set with an old-fashioned yodel.  She later returned for a duet with Brad singing, “That’s the Way Love Goes.”

There was something for everyone at this concert.  Brad Paisley was true to his word – by the end of the night I definitely felt like I had been to a party and I had a blast!

Brad Paisley’s Set List:
  1. Mud On the Tires 
  2. Better Than This 
  3. The World 
  4. Wrapped Around Your Finger 
  5. She’s Everything 
  6. Celebrity 
  7. Mr. Policeman 
  8. I’m Still A Guy 
  9. Letter To Me 
  10. I’m Gonna Miss Her (Fishin’ Song) 
  11. Instrumental during screen animation 
  12. Whiskey Lullaby 
  13. Acoustic Performance with Jewel – That’s the Way Love Goes 
  14. When I Get Where I’m Going 
  15. Online 
  16. Alcohol
Encore: 
  1. Ticks 
  2. Good Times Roll


Published in the Star Exponent 7-25-08 - Paisley Party Comes to Town



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tim McGraw in Bristow, VA - June 15, 2008


NOT A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE

While waiting at the special tent outside the gates of Nissan Pavilion to receive my pass for Tim McGraw’s private preshow party I noticed several men and women in uniform.  I struck up a conversation with one of the ladies.   Earlier in the day Tim’s band members had been at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit injured soldiers home from the war.   She even filled me in on the fact that the Warren Brothers were with Tim’s band and would be playing with them on stage tonight.  The young lady I spoke to said there were several students at the concert as Tim’s guest who were from the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD who were preparing to be physicians, nurses and scientists to care for those in harm’s way.  They were heading backstage to personally meet Tim.  I was impressed!

When I got to the preshow party I saw several wheelchairs upfront and a few more uniformed personnel milling around.  One young man in a T-shirt was declaring he’d just gotten back from Iraq two weeks ago and was inviting all the ladies to sign his chest.  I think I’ll show my support some other way.

After enjoying refreshments, everyone was ready for some music.  Tim’s band members, The Dancehall Doctors, came out with Lance Miller first, then Catherine Rainey followed by Tim McGraw.  Tim sang two songs: “Everywhere” and “Just to See You Smile” for this intimate performance.  Tim acknowledged the military and how appreciative he is for their sacrifice and service.  When it was over he shook hands with everyone in the front row.

I headed into the Pavilion and took my seat.  Halfway to Hazard was already on stage and what an energetic couple of guys they are!  Chad Warrix and David Tolliver worked hard to keep the crowd’s interest focused on the stage.   David even jumped down from the stage and walked through audience toward the end of their set.  They did their job - I was entertained. 

Jason Aldean was next and he was well received at Nissan Pavilion opening with his current single, “Relentless” then moving through several of his hits, “Amarillo Sky,” “Why,” “Laughed Until We Cried” and the lively “Johnny Cash.”  He said the last time he was in town he got a less than favorable review by the Washington Post.  In response Jason proceeded to play Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”  He closed with “Hicktown” and had everyone on their feet with a smile on their face.


The much anticipated moment had arrived. Tim McGraw finally strode out onto the stage amid the roar of the crowd.  He began with a brand new song called, “Still”  and throughout the night he skillfully blended old and new songs to keep the momentum going.  A young boy joined him on stage for the final chorus of “Last Dollar (Fly Away)” which was very sweet.  He serenaded various women who were fortunate enough to be standing next to the stage while Tim was singing “Suspicions,” “I Like It, I Love It,” and “Real Good Man.”  I saw a couple of them afterwards and I do believe they looked as if they might faint!  One woman could hardly speak.

For me the most poignant moment of the evening came when Tim returned to the stage for his encore.  He stood there and solemnly sang, “If You’re Readin’ This” – a song about a deceased soldier’s final letter home.  I was moved to tears and, as I glanced around I noticed I wasn’t the only one.  Tears were streaming down many cheeks in the Pavilion that night.

Of course Tim didn’t end the concert there.  He closed with some livelier, upbeat songs and said how much he loved his job but quite frankly it’s that one song that remains in my memory.  That song, combined with meeting the military earlier in the day and seeing those soldiers in wheelchairs served to remind me of the more important things in life.  Thanks for the experience, Tim; it’s one I won’t soon forget.

Published in the Start Exponent 6-20-08 Not a Dry Eye in the House



Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kenny Chesney Stadium Tour in Baltimore, MD - May 10, 2008

 
POETS AND PIRATES COME TO BALTIMORE, MD

David Nail
We began watching the weather reports a week in advance, hoping the rain would hold off.  I enjoy concerts, just not in the rain.  Saturday was looking questionable with a 30% chance of showers in the morning and to top it off, the temps were going to be in the 40-50’s that evening.  This is May, right?

We packed our jackets and ponchos and headed to the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore - home of the Ravens- for a full day of concerts.  Traffic was manageable and we arrived in time to listen to some side stage entertainment along Raven’s Walk while we ate lunch.  David Nail sang his new single, “I’m About to Come Alive.”  Some pretty girls certainly came alive in front of the stage when this attractive young man began to sing.  He didn’t seem to mind it – guess it goes with the territory.

As we headed toward the stadium we stopped at one of the radio station tents and who should arrive while we were there?  American Idol’s Phil Stacey!  He said hello and shook hands and even granted some photo-ops with fans before heading to the side stage for his performance.  Unfortunately it was scheduled to occur at the same time as Gary Allan so we missed it. 

By the time Gary Allan came on stage the sun had come out and it was beginning to get down-right hot!  Gary himself was heating up the stage singing “Nothing on But the Radio,” “Best I Ever Had,” “Watching Airplanes,”  “Right Where I Need to Be,”  “A Feeling Like That,” and “Songs About Rain” just to name a few.
Next up was LeAnn Rimes.  This girl has an amazing voice (and body to match – note to self, no more excuses for not going to the gym!)  She was very friendly to the crowd, signing hats, shirts, and even a couple of beach balls that bounced her way.  Cheers erupted in the stadium when she donned a Ravens Jersey with the number one on the front.   She sang many of her greatest hits along with her newest release, “Good Friends and a Glass of Wine.”      
 



Big and Rich exploded onto the stage in their customary fashion ready to get the party started.  They sang a variety of their songs including “The 8th of November” saying it was one of the most important songs they have ever written.  It’s a story about a Vietnam Vet and his experience in one of the toughest airborne battles in Vietnam.   During their set they were joined by Cowboy Troy who sang, “I Played Chicken with the Train" and Two Foot Fred who also made an appearance.

Brooks & Dunn were next on the docket and it was obvious many fans were there to see this dynamic duo.  The crowd roared its welcome as they opened with “Cowboy Town.”  Kix demonstrated his harmonica skills on several numbers while Ronnie’s tenor voice soared.   With a screen backdrop of American flags they sang, “Only in America,” while a group of military soldiers in dress uniform came marching onto the stage followed by a burst of red, white and blue streamers that settled onto the folks on the field.
It was now 9 p.m. and the crowd was prepped and ready for the crown jewel of the evening - Kenny Chesney.  Many had come from miles around, tail-gated and partied and waited all day for this very moment.  Just the mention of his name evoked squeals of delight and anticipation from the crowd.    I was so busy watching the stage that I almost missed his entrance; I had to be tapped on the shoulder and my view redirected!  He finally emerged from the middle of the catwalk (no mishap of a trapped boot at this venue, thank goodness).  He was wearing his traditional cowboy hat, a sleeveless blue Bruce Springsteen Live 1975-85 T-shirt, faded, worn blue jeans and boots.  He shook hands with fans and seemed happy to be singing the songs he loves.   Among them were “Never Wanted Nothin’ More,” “How Forever Feels,” “Wild Ride,” “Don’t Blink,” “Shift Work,” “Young,” “Beer In Mexico,” Keg in the Closet,” “When the Sun Goes Down,” “Big Star,” “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem,”  “Living in Fast Forward,” “Back Where I Come From,” “She’s Got It All,” and “Better As A Memory.”

 
I confess we skipped out on the encore to get a head start on traffic exiting the parking lots.  Judging by the amount of alcohol consumed at the stadium we figured it was a good idea to get ahead of all those folks.   All in all, it was a great day with plenty of good music and best of all no rain!!


Friday, April 11, 2008

UVA Drumline with Keith Urban in Charlottesville, VA - April 10, 2008

DRUMLINE – COUNTRY STYLE

“I almost missed the e-mail inviting me to play in the concert,” Lindsay Johnson told me over the phone a couple days before Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood performed at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA.  “I was clearing out my in-box and noticed a 2 day old message from Bill Pease (UVA’s Band Director) inviting the drumline to play during the song “I Told You So.”  My dad and I already had tickets to the concert and I would have been so bummed if I’d missed that e-mail and then sit in the audience and see the drumline come out and not be a part of it!”

Lindsay transferred to Bridgewater College this spring and commutes to UVA for Marching Band.  She plays bass drum in the drumline and has been playing drums for 13 years.  She gets her talent honestly from her father, Glen, who is also a drummer.  Glen works at Culpeper Regional Hospital in Nuclear Medicine and is a big supporter of the UVA Band, drives their van, carries equipment and goes to as many functions as he can.  Both Glen and Lindsay are fans of Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood.  Lindsay says her favorite Keith Urban song is “You’ll Think Of Me.”  As far as Carrie Underwood is concerned she tells me they “must have voted over 600 times that night for her to win American Idol.”

The UVA Drumline received the music about 10 days prior to the concert.  They held two separate one hour rehearsals and then met and rehearsed with Keith Urban’s Drum Tech, Mark Arnold, outside the arena for about an hour on the day of the concert before running through it on stage with the click track.  They were joined by 18 additional drummers that day from Tunstall High School and The Virginia Helmsmen to make a total of 32 drummers.  The sound was spectacular.

I asked Mark who came up with the idea for the drumline during the song?  He said it was all Keith’s idea and its Mark’s job to organize the various drumlines in the cities where they play.  The actual percussion number entitled “Hot Pepper Cheese” was written by Brian Nutter, one of Keith’s guitarists.  Brian attended West Virginia University and graduated with a music education major in voice with a minor in percussion.  He taught music theory and percussion before touring, first as a guitar tech with Keith and later as a musician in his band.

The drumline consists of various marching percussion instruments: snare drums, tenor drums (also known as quads), bass drums and cymbols.  Michael Purvis, a senior at UVA and Drumline Captain, plays snare and was right in the middle of the line.  It was his responsibility to give the 4 beat count to kick everything off.   He had heard of Keith Urban but was unfamiliar with his music.  He said performing with Keith in that setting was “thrilling” and the hi-def screen made him feel “larger than life.”   Ben Cooper, a senior who has earned the privilege of living on “The Lawn” at UVA due to his academic excellence, is the quad section leader.   Ben was impressed by how much Keith engaged the audience during his performance and he enjoyed the roar of the crowd and the light show while playing drums on stage.  Laura Chesser plays the cymbals and is also unfamiliar with Keith’s music.  She said her friends were jealous that she got to play on stage with Keith Urban.   For Laura it was very exciting to be in front of that many people.  She enjoyed watching Carrie Underwood’s quick changes from the sidelines and was impressed that she does her own hair and make-up.  For Lindsay Johnson, who plays bass, being on stage was “crazy and intense.”  She was so focused while playing that she momentarily forgot where she was.  Once finished she realized Keith was directly behind her introducing the band.  It was an amazing moment and one that she will never forget.  “I can always go see another concert and hear the songs I missed while waiting backstage to come out and perform but I’ll never get another chance like this again.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity!”  To top things off, Lindsay managed to catch the drum stick tossed by Keith Urban’s drummer, Chris McHugh at the end of the show.

Yes indeed, I’d say it was a good thing Lindsay checked her e-mail.  I bet she was singing Keith’s song “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me?” all the way home after the concert that night.

Published in the Star Exponent 4/18/08 - Drumline Doesn't Miss A Beat




Keith Urban in Charlottesville, VA - April 10, 2008

AMAZING “CARNIVAL RIDE TOUR”

All I can say is when Keith Urban holds your hand, looks you in the eye and says, “Hi there, thanks for coming,” you lose your mind.  That’s the only explanation I have for blurting out, “Keith, I think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread!” (Oh my gosh, did I really say that to Keith Urban?!)  He threw back his head and laughed then said, “I think you need to get out more!”

I had the unique opportunity to attend the Keith Urban Back Stage Experience during the Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Carnival Ride Concert Tour with Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA.  During this Experience I got to meet Keith, have a group photo taken, then gather in a room with about 50-75 other people.  I saw a video presentation about how the idea for the tour was created.  In the video you see both the creative and playful sides of Keith Urban,  meet the band members and crew and begin to understand just what an enormous undertaking it is to put on a concert the quality of which we were about to see.

After the video Keith walked in with a small, custom made acoustic electric Maton guitar to give an intimate performance just for us.  He asked what song we wanted to hear.   People were calling out various titles and I said, “Your Everything” (from the 1999 self titled Keith Urban album).  He acknowledged that was a good choice because he wasn’t going to sing it during the concert.  I was seated about 5 feet in front of him and it was wonderful to hear his voice so clearly.  When he concluded he said he had some time for a few questions.  I felt I simply must redeem myself for my “sliced bread” comment and at least ask a somewhat intelligent question.  I put my hand up and he called on me.  “Keith, you have performed duets with many artists in a variety of genres, both instrumental and vocal – Tommy Emmanuel, John Butler, Martina McBride, Rhonda Vincent, Leann Rimes, Trisha Yearwood – would you ever consider making a duet album?”   He replied that even though he has enjoyed singing duets with other artists he doesn’t see himself doing an entire album.  I told him that he has a talent for letting other artists shine when he performs with them and he said he’d much rather be the guy in the band and perhaps when he runs out of material he would resort to a duet album.  I asked if we would be treated to a duet tonight and he said with a gleam in his eye, “You just might!”

The next question from the group was from a woman in the front, “How many times did it take you to get your Tennessee drivers license?”  He laughed and said he’d never been asked that question before.  “Only once,” he replied.   A young man asked a guitar question: “What pick up does your 1957 Les Paul Junior have?”  Keith answered that it has a P-90.  When asked what is the most personal song he has written that he is the proudest of, he thought for a minute then answered “But For the Grace of God” which Keith co-wrote with two girls formerly of the GoGos - Charlotte Caffrey and Jane Wiedlin.  The last question involved his pending parenthood with Nicole Kidman and if he was looking forward to becoming a dad.  Keith replied he was definitely excited and the timing felt perfect.  When asked if he would he change dirty diapers he said, “You bet!”

Keith bid us farewell and we headed into the arena where Carrie Underwood was already on stage.  My goodness can this girl sing!  She has continued to blossom as an artist and entertainer managing several costume changes during her performance and even playing guitar for a couple songs.  She ventured down the catwalk a few times, walking gingerly in heels and high-fiving her fans.  At one point she asked if there were any “Prince Charmings” in the audience.  There were several volunteers but she currently prefers her dog, Ace, who was patiently waiting for her back on the bus.  She then proceeded to sing the fun song “The More Boys I Meet.”   During the concert Carrie revealed that she is technologically challenged and admitted she was unable to work her TiVo to record “Idol Gives Back.” She hadn’t seen it yet but the applause she received from those who had seen her performance of George Michael’s song, “Praying For Time” let her know it was a success.  Carrie closed out her set with the crowd favorite, “Before He Cheats” and it seemed as if the entire arena was singing along – well, at least the ladies were.

Keith Urban was energy personified as he worked the stage and the far reaches of the catwalk to connect with his fans.  His guitar riffs were stellar and his smile infectious as he engaged the crowd at the JPJ Arena.  Keith spied three teens holding a huge sign requesting a hug.  He granted their wish, calling them up on stage to get it.  He also had a young lady hoisted onto the stage so he could personally sign the cast on her leg.  He dared to venture out into the crowd, playing his guitar and stopped in front of a startled young boy, took off his guitar, signed it and gave it to him.  In the middle of his concert he walked down the catwalk with his band mates to a satellite stage at the end and camped out there for three songs, giving the rear of the arena a front row view.  His set incorporated the combined UVA Drumline and the Virginia Helmsmen Drumline into the song “I Told You So.”  And for an added bonus, Carrie Underwood strolled out on stage to join Keith in a cover of the Tom Petty/Stevie Nix classic, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”

All these nuances threaded throughout the performance of his songs combine to make this one of the most entertaining concerts you are going to see this season.  It’s quite a ride!
 
CARRIE UNDERWOOD Set List
Flat on the Floor
Wasted
Get Out of This Town
The More Boys I Meet
Just A Dream
Jesus, Take the Wheel
I Know You Won't
I Ain't in Checotah Anymore
Last Name
Don't Forget
Twisted
All American Girl
So Small
Paradise City
Before He Cheats

KEITH URBAN Set List
Once in A Lifetime
Where the Blacktop Ends
Shine
Faster Car
Raining On Sunday
Stupid Boy
Better Half
Making Memories Of Us
You'll Think of Me
Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (Keith & Carrie Duet)
Told You So
Days Go By
You Look Good in My Shirt
Tonight I Wanna Cry
Who Wouldn't Want To Be Me
Somebody Like You
Got It Right This Time
Better Life
Everybody

Published in the Star Exponent 4/18/08An Amazing Carnival Ride
To view article go HERE

Friday, February 29, 2008

George Strait in Richmond, VA - February 28, 2008

STRAIT TO THE HEART OF RICHMOND

She was standing in front of us in the concession line at the Richmond Coliseum holding an armful of George Strait T-shirts.  My friend and I were discussing if we’d be able to see the stage from our seats when she whirled around with a big grin on her face and exclaimed, “There’s NO bad seat at a George Strait Concert!  The stage is set up right in the middle so everyone can see!”   I asked where her seat was located.  She replied that she had gotten a floor seat through George’s Fan Club and had driven all the way from Illinois.  She laughed when she saw the look of surprise on my face.  She continued to shock me by saying this was her 51st George Strait concert.  Wow!  This was definitely a devoted fan!  She’s been to see him as many times as he’s had number one hits  (50) and was about to see him one more time.

We took our seats and I scanned the crowd – young and old, families and couples, many decked out in cowboy hats, jeans and boots to see “King George” and his Ace in the Hole band.   You could feel the excitement mounting.

The first to take the stage was Sarah Johns, an up and comer from Nashville who got her start singing in church and was encouraged to head to Nashville to pursue her dreams.   She did a nice cover of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” as well as Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishing in the Dark.”   She introduced her new single “He Hates Me” from her debut CD – “Big Love in a Small Town.”

Next up was a familiar favorite of mine – Little Big Town.  They are a very energetic group who moves and works the entire stage, always involving the crowd.  I was a bit surprised by the somewhat subdued audience response.  There were scattered groups here and there (myself included) who were on their feet singing and dancing along but for the most part folks stayed in their seats, even people in the floor section, which is known for being “a happening place.”   I thought to myself, “Uh oh… this is a tough crowd.”  From what I could tell, it didn’t seem to dampen Little Big Town’s enthusiasm or performance.  They opened with “I’m With The Band” and went on to sing a mix of their hits “A Little More You,” “Good As Gone,”  “Bring It On Home” with fresh songs  “Fine Line” and “Novocain” from their new CD “A Place To Land.”   Their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” seemed to be a crowd pleaser.  Richmond Coliseum came alive when the song “Boondocks” was played.  By the time they were done Little Big Town had won some fans as I heard people around me saying, “That was awesome!”  “They were great!”

There was an intermission between performers and I had an opportunity to meet briefly with Little Big Town and say “Hello.”  They are such a gracious group of young people and very excited to be touring with the great George Strait, reaching (and hopefully winning) new fans.   I was able to give them a copy of the December issue of Culpeper Star Exponent’s In and Around that had their photos in it.  They got a kick out of the Reindeer Antler photo and teased me about how I said it wouldn’t be published anywhere.

I headed back into the Coliseum where George was already on stage singing.  The stage is set up “in the round” - a microphone is placed in all four corners and George moves to each one in turn singing two songs at each mic.  I watched in amazement as George Strait moved from corner to corner, playing his guitar and singing.  He didn’t have to do anything else.   The fans on the floor and in the stands were on their feet, singing, cheering, clapping and snapping photos.  Was this the same crowd?  Obviously a man who has 50 number one chart topping hits has a dedicated fan base and they were here in full force tonight.

George sang such hits as: “Ocean Front Property,” “I Hate Everything,” “Run,” “Check Yes or No,” “She’ll Leave You  With a Smile,” “I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore,” “Cowboys Like Us,” “Amarillo By Morning,” “Seashores of Old Mexico,” “Write This Down,” “Give It Away,” “It Just Comes Natural,” “I Just Want To Dance With You.”

As the music started for the song “Texas” he apologized, knowing he was in Redskin territory.  A video played showing scenes of Texas as he sang.  After he finished he said, “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” and the crowd laughed good-naturedly.  Of course they loved it.  While he sang, “How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls” a camera sought out various cowgirls in the audience to the cheers of fans.   When George sang his newest single, “I Saw God Today,” a song about seeing the power of God in the life of a newborn child, you could tell from the crowd’s reaction that this could very well be another number one hit for “King George.”

George Strait is traditional country in his plaid shirt, crisply pressed jeans, boots and cowboy hat.  He has a knack for finding songs that connect with his fans and are fun to sing.  With a simple humbleness he stands on stage with guitar in hand, serenades his fans and is met with love and devotion.   Yes indeed, George Strait won the heart of Richmond.

Published in the Star Exponent 3/21/08 - Strait to the Heart of Richmond