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,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chris Tomlin's "Glory in the Highest" Christmas Concert

Season's Greetings!

During the holiday season it’s especially nice to be able to attend a (dare I say it?) Christmas concert where the artists are not worried about being “politically correct” as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

On December 10th my husband and I joined some friends at Chris Tomlin’s “Glory in the Highest” Christmas Concert held at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, VA.  Setting the holiday mood were beautiful white twinkling lights draped along the curtains that changed their color from deep red to green then blue and back again.

Chris Tomlin casually stepped on stage to lead everyone in the popular Christmas carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and the concert began.  Chris is small in stature but boundless in energy.  He radiates the joy he sings about in “Joy to the World” and encourages others to rejoice with “My Soul Magnifies the Lord.”  When he sang “Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)” the true meaning of Christmas was made clear.  A babe was born with the purpose of redeeming mankind.

Louie Giglio came out with gift in hand and chose a volunteer from the audience to unwrap it.  The young girl was thrilled with the lavender covered Bible and back stage passes.  Louie proceeded to talk about the greatest gift ever given and how the shepherds must have felt when faced with the amazing news that special night so long ago.  How frightening and thrilling.  What a gift our world received.  What a difference He can make in our lives today, if we let Him.

Chris continued to sing seasonal and worship songs like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Holy Night,” “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” and “Glory in the Highest.”

It was uplifting and refreshing to celebrate the true reason for the season.  Merry Christmas!  God bless us, everyone.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Follow You Tour Concert Review


Those who know me know I listen to a variety of music. The concerts I attend are primarily country but I have attended some pop rock, jazz, and contemporary Christian concerts on occasion. On the contemporary Christian music front I look for artists that not only have great sounds and styling but also a solid message. I have enjoyed concerts by artists such as Third Day, Michael W. Smith, and Casting Crowns. More recently I had the privilege to see Francesca Battistelli, Brandon Heath, and Leeland during their Follow You Tour.

The concert was held at Culpeper High School November 10, 2009 where nearly 1,200 fans filled the auditorium to overflowing. Most of those in attendance came from a 10-200 mile radius thanks to the publicity of Radio Station WPER. They were not disappointed. Battistelli, Heath, and Leeland shared the stage much of the time during the three hour concert in addition to giving each other the spotlight to sing their individual hits.

Francesca Battistelli was the darling of the evening eliciting the most applause from the teenagers in the crowd and rocking the house with her hits “Free to be Me” and “I’m Letting Go.” She has a beautiful, full voice and infectious smile, it’s no wonder she was so popular.

It’s always enlightening to hear the story behind a song and Brandon Heath shared he wrote “Trust You” as a personal testimony about his struggles and resulting faith in the Lord. His openness and sincerity were endearing and there was a palpable connection with the audience. Brandon had a very creative intro to his hit “Give Me Your Eyes” utilizing a cover of “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. Wait and See” and “I’m Not Who I Was” were other Heath crowd favorites.

You could hear a pin drop when Brandon and Francesca introduced a Christmas song they’ve been working on telling the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The words were powerful and their harmonies delightful. I hope they will record and release this one soon!

Leeland (comprised of brothers Leeland and Jack Mooring, Jake Holtz, and Mike Smith) describe their music as “progressive, creative worship music with pop rock and British rock influences.” They performed several songs from their new album Love is on the Move including “The Door,” “New Creation,” “Lift Your Eyes Up, “ “Pure Bride,” and the duet with Brandon Heath “Follow You” as well as some of their more familiar songs like “Tears of the Saints,” and “Yes You Have.”

Leeland was definitely energetic on stage, yet there were moments of quiet intensity that took my breath away. Good music and well written lyrics can do that to a person.

Intermission gave us all a chance to donate to “Food For the Hungry” supported by the Follow You Tour artists whose goal is to have over 1,000 children sponsored by the Tour’s end. Their message is that we put our love into action, helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

I came away from this concert refreshed and invigorated, thankful for the opportunity to truly worship, grateful for the gift of music and such talented artists as these.

Links to interviews with the artists prior to the show:
• BRANDON HEATH by Cheryl Walker

• JACK & LEELAND MOORING by Cheryl Walker

Friday, October 16, 2009

All For The Hall - October 13, 2009


I’m so glad I had the opportunity to attend Keith Urban’s “All for the Hall” benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame October 13th. What an amazing showcase of talent!

Keith Urban opened the show with an abbreviated version of his Defying Gravity tour set list with a couple of variations. The first of which was a wonderful acoustic version of Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” that Keith declared was what country music and the Hall of Fame are all about.

Midway through his set he was joined by Brad Paisley for “Start a Band” – something I have been longing to see ever since I first heard the song. It was all I had hoped for. Both artists had fun singing and performing together. They divided and conquered the audience as Keith exited stage right and Brad stage left going up into the stands to play dueling guitars, thrilling concert goers along the way.

There was a lengthy intermission once Keith wrapped up his portion of the program allowing a special house band to set up on stage. For the rest of the evening Vince and Keith became part of the “house band” for the remaining performers.

Vince emerged wearing a Nashville Predators jersey and opened with “Liza Jane.” Keith joined him on some blistering guitar riffs. Vince then dedicated the next song, “Whenever You Come Around,” to his wife, Amy Grant, who was seated in the audience.

Following Vince was Little Big Town singing “Fine Line” and their popular song “Boondocks” which got folks up on their feet.

Dierks Bentley kept the energy high with “Sideways” and it was fun to watch the expressions on Keith Urban and Vince Gill’s faces as Dierks ran around and worked the crowd. Everybody was enjoying being together. Dierks concluded with “Free and Easy” encouraging the audience to sing along.

Lady Antebellum came out looking thrilled to be included in the evening’s activities. They sang their hit “I Run to You” followed by their current single “Need You Now.”

Keith welcomed Jason Aldean to the stage to thunderous applause as he sang “Big Green Tractor” and shook hands with nearby concert goers. Keith clearly enjoyed playing back up with Jason’s guitarists on “She’s Country” exchanging high-fives when the song was over.

Faith Hill, looking elegant in a black pant suit, joined Keith and Vince on stage to sing “Let Me Let Go” with Vince. There were smiles all around as that song brought back memories. Then Faith broke into Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” rocking the house.

Taylor Swift walked out in a glittery strapless dress and heels with guitar in hand. She strolled out on the short catwalk and did a lovely acoustic version of her new single “Fifteen” then donated her guitar with her lucky number “13” on it. She followed up with “Love Story” getting quite flirty with Keith as he played and sang along.

All the performers returned to the stage joining Keith Urban, Vince Gill, songwriter Monty Powell, guitarist Dan Huff and the rest of the house band for “Lay Down Sally” to close the show.

Keith promised there will be more “All for the Hall” benefits in the future – October 5, 2010 to be exact. So mark those calendars and save the date my friends – you don’t want to miss this one.

Photos from All For The Hall 2009 by C Walker Here 

Published: Star Exponent 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pajama Jam - October 2, 2009


Imagine 900 women gathered together for dinner and a concert dressed in pajamas and slippers. That’s what happened October 2nd at the Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, VA for the 6th annual Pajama Jam for Breast Cancer awareness benefiting the American Cancer Society.

Money was raised though ticket sales, raffles and a silent auction for various items ranging from autographed posters and guitars to a pair of pants worn by Kenny Chesney.

Donating their time for the “Jam” this year were artists Josh Thompson, James Otto, and Jake Owen. Josh Thompson arrived appropriately attired in pajamas although he kept his boots on. He entertained the lively audience with a variety of cover songs plus the song he wrote for Jason Michael Carroll, “Growing Up Is Getting Old” and Josh’s latest single, “Beer on the Table.”

James Otto took command of the stage after Josh and his booming voice matched his towering size. I was blown away by his rendition of “In Color” – a song he co-wrote with Jamey Johnson and Lee Miller. And of course he had the ladies eating out of his hand with “Just Got Started Lovin’ You.”

James signed a guitar to auction after his set and the bidding wars began. When the dust settled the winning bid totaled $1,000. The winner revealed her motivation for such a high bid: her co-worker had just been diagnosed with cancer. Not only did she receive the guitar but she won a kiss from James.

Jake Owen kept the excitement going with his performance. Singing many crowd favorites like “Cherry On Top,” “Anything For You,” “8 Second Ride,” he was hard pressed to keep his seat on the stool provided for the acoustic set. He did stand up briefly for “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You” unwinding the microphone cord from its stand so he could move around at least a little.

He told a very entertaining story about his experience at the CMA Awards this year and his view from the front row near the edge of the stage looking up. Some of those girls should take that into consideration when choosing their wardrobes and the length of their skirts.

Being the prolific songwriter that he is, Jake sang a song inspired by that situation that had us all in stitches. Even he got tickled when singing it. I’m not sure it will ever make it onto one of his albums but it certainly was funny.

However there was one unfinished song he shared that I certainly hope he completes someday because all the ladies loved it:
“Hey baby, I’m taking off early this afternoon,
I’m gonna be home soon and I’m sure gonna love on you.
Don’t worry, I’ve already made the plans, honey.
‘Cause I’m your man and that’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’m gonna hold you close and take my time,
Feel your body move with mine,
Run my fingers through your hair,

I’m gonna kiss you honey from head to toe...
Right now, that’s all you need to know.

Don’t worry ‘bout puttin’ on a thing to wear
‘Cause we got nowhere to go… and all night to get there."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fortune Williams Festival - September 26, 2009

- Jimmy Fortune and Marty Stuart

It was a dark and stormy night…
but that didn’t stop the sellout crowd from squeezing into the Cochran Pavilion at the Frontier Culture Museum to hear some good, old-fashioned country music that Saturday evening, September 26th.

And to think, I almost didn’t go to the Fortune Williams Music Festival but my friend persisted and I’m so glad she did because I certainly would have missed a classic event.

We arrived in time to hear several songs by Jimmy Fortune, formerly of the Statler Brothers. His voice is amazing – a smooth, soaring tenor that makes you sit up and take notice. The sounds of the rain pounding on the roof combined with the warmth of the crowd and the delightful, classic tunes gave me a sense of stepping back in time to a simpler day and age. As Jimmy sang songs like “On the Other Side,” “More Than a Name On the Wall,” “How Great Thou Art,” “When One Door Closes,” I found myself smiling with contentment.

During the break we braved the elements and ventured down to the refreshment tent to get something warm to drink. While there Jimmy showed up to sign autographs and pose for photos. As I thanked him for his wonderful performance he replied, “I have some of the greatest fans in the world!” Indeed he does.

We returned to the Pavilion to dry off and warm up, ready for Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. When Marty came out we forgot all about the weather. His sunny personality radiated from the stage and he kept us thoroughly entertained with his wit and musicality. Marty got the crowd singing with “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ Anymore,” and “Tempted,” and I was enthralled as he wove the story of “Little Big Horn” using both words and instruments to pull us in.

Ever the encourager, Marty frequently shared the spotlight with his fellow band members, giving them each a chance to shine. One of the more memorable moments occurred when Jimmy, Kenny Vaughan, his guitarist, took the lead on “Walk Like That,” showcasing his quick fingers and delightful facial expressions.

Marty even called Jay Unger, a popular fiddler, to the stage and complimented him on his composition entitled, “Ashokan Farewell.” Marty suggested they play it together. The crowd cheered its approval at the idea. Marty picked up his mandolin and softly played in the background allowing Jay to shine, taking the lead only when Jay nodded. They watched and read each other’s cues smiling with delight at the opportunity to make music. The end result was breathtaking! When the last note faded away the audience came to their feet for a standing ovation. I felt as though I’d witnessed something truly special.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Toby Keith and Trace Adkins at Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, VA


On a deliciously cool, late summer evening Nissan Pavilion brought its concert season to a close with two of country music’s rough and ready artists Toby Keith and Trace Adkins.

Trace Adkins opened his performance with “I Got My Game On” and continued with other light-hearted songs like “Swing,” “Songs About Me,” “Marry for Money,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” “One Hot Momma” and “Badonkadonk.” He shifted gears singing “You’re Gonna Miss This,” a very poignant song for those in the audience who recently sent their kids off to college. And then he sang “Arlington,” a personal favorite of mine with scenes of the nation’s famous cemetery on the big screen behind him reminding us of the high cost of freedom. Trace followed this song with another he admitted he seldom sang live but with the anniversary of 9/11 having occurred just the day before he said he wanted to send a message to the terrorists responsible for the suicide bombings and proceeded to sing, “Welcome to Hell.” Suffice it to say he got his message across.

Toby Keith took charge of the stage after Trace and continued to fire up the crowd as he began his set with his current single “American Ride,” a song that aims its cynicism at cultural trends. Toby sang hit after hit: “Talkin’ ‘Bout Tonight,” “Whiskey Girl,” “God Love Her,” “Talk About Me,” “Kiss Me Like This,” “Who’s Your Daddy,” “As Good As I Once Was,” “I Love This Bar,” and “Beer For My Horses,” to name a few.

In my opinion the highlight of the evening came when Toby returned for his encore performance with “American Soldier.” The lights were dimmed and the big screen revealed scenes of our men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as Toby sang. Moments later military personnel began to enter the stage. Some were soldiers Toby and Trace met on tour in Iraq; others were patients they met at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Some were disabled and some were home on furlough. They all received a standing ovation. It was a chance to thank our military for their service to our country.

After Toby gave one of the vets a shirt, the “Star Spangled Banner” was played and Toby launched into “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue.” Trace Adkins took over the microphone for a verse allowing Toby to hug the necks of several members of the military gathered behind him. It was a magical moment, one I felt honored to witness.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Keith Urban in Washington, D.C. 08-20-09


I was looking forward to celebrating my birthday with my girlfriends as we drove into D.C. to see Sugarland and Keith Urban perform at the Verizon Center on August 20th. We had just sat down to dinner when I received a text from a radio station I occasionally share photos with. I was to meet them at Will Call.

I left thinking I’d be right back but I was very wrong. The radio station surprised me with a pass to Keith Urban’s Backstage Experience and said I had to hurry if I was going to make it! I hustled after Brian, one of the DJs, texting my friends along the way, apologizing for leaving them with my half eaten dinner and an unpaid bill. They told me not to worry, to go ahead and have fun.

The Backstage Experience consists of a group of about 60-70 people gathered together for a BBQ Dinner, a group photo with Keith, a video presentation of the making of the tour, and a brief acoustic performance by Keith himself. For our acoustic performance Keith played “Jeans On,” a selection from his Golden Road Album requested by a young lady seated up front.

As soon as Keith finished playing another girl asked him to sing “Happy Birthday” for her friend, Lisa. Keith agreed but before he could start, Brian called out from the back where we were standing, “Hey Keith! It’s Cheryl Walker’s birthday too! You need to sing Happy Birthday to Cheryl Walker!” Keith replied, “What… you want first and last names???!!” and Brian said “I’m sure there’re other Cheryls in the room and it’s THIS Cheryl,” pointing to me. With a big grin on his face Keith said, “Oh THAT Cheryl Walker right there? THAT Cheryl?” He then proceeded to sing “Happy Birthday” to us and when he got to our names he sang, “Happy Birthday to Lisa and Cheryl, that Cheryl right there, over there that Cheryl.” It was hilarious and certainly one of the most unforgettable birthdays I’ll have for years to come.

After the Backstage Experience we headed into the arena where Sugarland was already on stage. You would never know Jennifer Nettles had struggled with any type of vocal problems recently. Although when her mic cut off for an extended period of time and I could see Jennifer’s lips moving but there was no sound and I feared the worst. Thankfully it was only a technical problem. Her voice was amazingly strong the rest of the evening and the entire performance was a joy to watch – so energetic and fun.

The crowd erupted when Keith Urban came out singing “Hit the Ground” and indeed he hit the ground running with 2 hours of well paced non-stop entertainment. From his current chart topping singles “Kiss A Girl” and “Sweet Thing” to classic hits “Days Go By” and “Somebody Like You,” Keith held the audience in the palm of his hand. Weaving his spell with uniquely designed guitars (imagine lights and mirrors) Keith’s technique and incredible fret work demonstrated jaw-dropping skill.

Wanting to make this concert enjoyable for fans in every corner of the arena, Keith has employed a unique set of 5 huge hi-def screens that rotate and bring another dimension to his tour. Leaving the stage to get personal with the fans, Keith strolled through the crowd like a modern day minstrel making his way to the satellite stage in the back of the arena to perform a few songs and later into the stands to sing a selection.

This is definitely one concert you don’t want to miss!! Be sure and check Keith Urban's Official Tour schedule (http://www.keithurban.net/tourdates.html) for concert dates and see if he's coming to a city near you!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

American Idol - Washington, D.C. 08-04-09


My friends and I joined thousands of other “arm chair judges” for American Idol Season 8 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC on August 4th to hear our favorite contestants perform. Many had differing opinions about who should have won but we were all there to show our support and enjoy an evening of good music. We were not disappointed. With few exceptions every performer sounded surprisingly good with a full band and backup singers for support.

Michael Sarver, the oil rigger, worked hard to get everyone up and dancing with fair results as he opened the show. Megan Joy was still quirky but now looked more like a Barbie doll in a slinky pink dress and heels with sparkles on her tattoo instead of the flower child she appeared to be on TV. Scott MacIntyre was the first to really connect with the crowd despite his blindness. He joked between numbers and demonstrated remarkable piano skills. Next up was Lil Rounds who finally looked like she was having fun by her third number, dancing and singing “Single Ladies” (Beyonce’).

Anoop Desai mixed it up with ballads and dance numbers throwing in a few moves that elicited squeals from fans. Then Matt Girard, minus his facial mole and sporting a faux hawk hair cut, took to the piano with confidence, singing and playing with plenty of showmanship and ability. I enjoyed his set as well as the piano duets he performed later with Scott during the group performance.

Allison Iraheta remained true to her rocker style playing guitar and belting out the lyrics with a wind machine blowing her hair all around. She definitely took ownership of the stage with the maturity of someone twice her age but not one of her songs varied in intensity. They were all fierce and it sometimes sounded like she was yelling. I hope she still has a voice by the end of the tour.

Of all the Idols, Danny Gokey surprised me most. He looked like he was truly enjoying himself dancing and singing “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” by Michael Jackson. I was impressed by how well he related to the crowd making eye contact and covering every corner of the stage. During his set Danny briefly mentioned the tragic loss of his wife and encouraged us all “not to let tragedy define you” and “don’t let it keep you from following your dreams.” He then proceeded to sing “My Wish” (Rascal Flatts) with conviction and emotion. I enjoyed his full, throaty voice and sincere delivery.

Judging by sound of the cheers and screams that accompanied his appearance it was clear Adam Lambert was the house favorite. The show quickly went from G to R rated with his seductive movements and flamboyance. Adam really knows how to work a crowd and he certainly did during the opening number “Whole Lotta Love” (Zeppelin). The songs “Starlight” (Muse) and “Mad World” (Tears for Fears) allowed him to show off his impressive vocal range and ability. Then he was joined by Allison Iraheta for “Slow Ride” (Foghat) and it was hard to tell who was having more fun – Allison or Adam. He wrapped up his set with a David Bowie Medley – “Life on Mars/Fame/Let’s Dance” shedding his jacket, strutting his stuff, and making me wonder how we’ve gotten here from the days when Elvis’ dance moves were considered shocking.

Kris Allen proved he was worthy of the Idol title when he opened his set playing guitar and singing “Heartless” (West/The Fray). His voice was full and strong. Kris delivered “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Winters) with equal intensity and abandon, getting lost in the lyrics. It was obvious he was in his comfort zone behind either guitar or piano. It was as if we were guests in his studio watching as he immersed himself into the music. If only he would look up and acknowledge our presence - but then it just might break the spell.

Michael Sarver
In Love With A Girl,
Gavin DeGraw
Closer, Ne-Yo
Megan Joy
Put Your Records On, Corrine Bailey Rae
Tears Dry on Their Own, Amy Winehouse
Scott MacIntyre
Bend & Break, Keane
A Thousand Miles, Vanessa Carlton
Lil Rounds
Be Without You/Just Fine, Mary J. Blige
No One, Alicia Keys
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Beyoncé
Anoop Desai
Always On My Mind, Willie Nelson/Elvis Presley
Mad, Ne-Yo
My Prerogative, Bobby Brown
Matt Giraud
Hard to Handle, Otis Redding/Black Crowes
Georgia on My Mind, Ray Charles/Hoagy Carmichael, Stuart Gorrell
You Found Me, The Fray
Production Number
Megan & Lil: Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, Four Seasons/Andy Williams
Scott & Matt: Tell Her About It, Billy Joel
Michael: Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley
Anoop, Matt, Scott, Michael, Lil, Megan: Beggin’, Four Seasons/Madcon
Allison Iraheta
So What, Pink
Cry Baby, Garnet Mimms/Janis Joplin
Barracuda, Heart
Danny Gokey
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), Michael Jackson
Maria Maria, Santana
What Hurts the Most, Rascal Flatts
My Wish, Rascal Flatts
Adam Lambert
Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin
Starlight, Muse
Mad World, Tears for Fears/Gary Jules
Slow Ride, Foghat (with Allison Iraheta)
Life on Mars/Fame/Let’s Dance, David Bowie
Kris Allen
Heartless, Kanye West/The Fray
All These Things That I’ve Done, The Killers
Ain’t No Sunshine, Bill Withers
Bright Lights, Matchbox 20
Hey Jude, The Beatles (with several other Idols)
Group Idol Finale
Entire Group: Don’t Stop Believing, Journey (with a chorus of Steam’s Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brad Paisley - Bristow, VA 07-25-09

An “American Saturday Night” in Bristow, VA

Catching everyone off guard (including yours truly) Brad Paisley appeared in the audience to open the show at Nissan Pavilion July 25th with a brief rendition of “Start A Band” then moved onto the stage to sing “American Saturday Night”. It was obvious Brad was determined to make sure this concert was a party for everyone who showed up. From the huge hi-def jumbo-tron screens for the folks on the lawn to the cat walk and far corners of the stage which he frequently visited, Brad made sure nobody felt left out.

Then there was the music. Brad carefully selected a variety of songs that encompassed American life: Childhood (“Water,” “Letter to Me”), Relationships (“Waitin’ On A Woman,” “Mud on the Tires,” “She’s Everything”), Self Image ( “On-Line,” “The World” “Celebrity”), Hanging out with the guys (“Catch All the Fish,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her”), Humor (“The Pants,” “Ticks,” “Alcohol”), and Faith (“When I Get Where I’m Going”).

Brad also created a cartoon animation for the big screen portraying various country music artists in trouble (Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Toby Keith) requiring “Super Brad” to come to the rescue. I was torn between watching the animation and watching Brad when he played guitar right in front of me.

Not only did Brad start his concert in the audience but he ended it there as well by leaving the stage and going out into the 200 section of seats during a guitar solo to the thrill and delight of his fans. What a guy!

Special guests appearing with Brad for the evening were Jimmy Wayne and Dierks Bentley. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them before the concert and learned a couple of interesting facts about these two young men.

Jimmy Wayne wears Brut cologne – how do I know this? Jimmy asked if I recognized the fragrance, I did and he confirmed it. He thinks it’s a very economical choice. Of course one of the DJs in the room teased Jimmy saying his grandfather wears Brut but I can still remember how popular it was in the 1970’s (was it that long ago???).

Dierks Bentley played paintball in 90 degree heat earlier in the afternoon. How do I know? For one thing his tour manager told us while we were waiting in line to meet him. But I found out first hand. After we posed for our photo together I patted his side and thanked him. He winced and said I found the spot where he got hit with a paint ball. He then proceeded to pull up his shirt and show me the red welt. I wonder which one of his band mates “nailed” him with that shot?

As for their performances Jimmy Wayne was quite the crowd pleaser following Brad’s example by venturing into the audience twice during his songs to pose for photos and dance with the ladies. His vocals were intense as he sang “Do You Believe Me Now,” and “I'll Be That.” The joy of being on tour with Brad was written all over his face. He was well received by the crowd and judging by the long line waiting for autographs after the show folks are starting to notice his talent.

Dierks Bentley should be named the running man of country music. I’ve never seen anyone race around so much during a performance without being winded while singing. His endurance is incredible. He certainly got the crowd warmed up starting with the energetic “Sideways,” followed by “Lot of Leavin’ Left To Do” and several of his major hits. He used every inch of the stage and catwalk, leaning far out into the crowd to hold hands, give high fives and connect with fans.

Kudos to Brad Paisley for being so generous and allowing his opening acts to utilize his entire stage and catwalk. Not all headlining artists are as accommodating. It certainly made for a fun-filled, interactive concert.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sugarland Love on the Inside Tour

Sugarland in Roanoke, VA 06-26-09

Now that Jennifer Nettles has to take more vocal rest to protect those wonderful pipes of hers I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to see Sugarland perform their “Love on the Inside” tour this summer in Roanoke, VA. Sugarland’s concert was truly a feast for the senses with all the props and special effects. Beautifully ornate hanging lamps, enormous lanterns, umbrellas with tiny lights, bubbles softly floating down and confetti falling from the ceiling plus the ebb and flow of stage lighting all served to create various moods throughout the evening.

Jennifer Nettles appeared to hold nothing back during Sugarland’s energetic performance. Her vocals were spot on and you would never know there was any hint of a problem. She had the audience wrapped around her finger with her spontaneity, playfulness and charm. Meanwhile guitarist, Kristian Bush made friends with the crowd by tossing picks, shaking hands, nodding and pointing to fans.

Sugarland opened with an expressive rendition of “Love” followed by the crowd pleasing “Settlin’” and “It Happens.” Jennifer Nettles is as much fun to watch as she is to listen to. With her body movement and facial expressions she becomes an extension of whatever song she’s singing. The acoustic version of “Genevieve” was delightful, “Blood on Snow” was a powerful new song and who doesn’t like (and sing along with) “All I Want to Do?”

Ever full of surprises Jennifer, Kristian and their band donned wigs and caps for the encore performance of the B52’s “Love Shack” and I was sad to see the evening come to an end. This had to be one of my all-time favorite concerts.

Having Holly Williams (daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.) and Billy Currington as opening acts was certainly a smart move. I had never heard Holly before and she was terrific. Her current single “Keep the Change” is quite good. By the time she concluded her brief acoustic performance she’d definitely captured the attention of the audience and won new fans.

Billy Currington was smooth, laid back and engaging as he sang a mix of old and new songs. His current single “People Are Crazy” is climbing up the charts and got a great response from the crowd as did the familiar and sassy “Must Be Doin’ Something Right.” His band is very talented and I enjoyed the entire set. It was over all too quickly but word was that he was going to play at a club later that night after the concert. I’m sure many folks headed over to hear more. Billy closed with “Good Directions” so I hope anyone going to the club after the concert got good directions and met up with Billy for that second show.

Monday, June 15, 2009

George Strait - Bristow, VA 06-13-09

In the world of country music he is often referred to as “King George” with over 50 number one hits to his name, but when George Strait walked on stage at Nissan Pavilion Saturday, June 13, his countenance was that of a true southern gentleman, humble and gracious. He smiled and waved to adoring fans as he strode from one end of the platform to the other acknowledging the crowd before taking his place at the center microphone. Opening with “Write This Down,” and moving on to “I Just Want to Dance with You” he nodded and grinned at the ladies who raised their hands, volunteering to be George’s dance partner. Others settled on dancing in the aisles with their dates as George continued to serenade them with songs like “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “Seashores of Old Mexico,” “Check Yes or No,” “She’ll Leave You with a Smile,” “The Chair,” and “Troubadour,” just to name a few.

Of course George had to bring up his home state, which is a sticky subject around here where the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins rivalry is so heated, but the crowd was a forgiving one as George knowingly winked and continued to sing “Texas.”
The storm that rolled through the area during the concert didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the audience one bit. They were singing “Rolling on the River of Love” with George and praying for that “Blue Clear Sky” as he sang.

George made sure he introduced all the members of his famous “Ace in the Hole” band, most of whom hailed from the lone-Star State, giving credit where credit is due. Whenever he received exceptional applause or a standing ovation (which was often) George would bow, nod his head and thank his fans for the success of that particular song. Such a gentleman! Unwilling to let George leave without an encore, the crowd clapped and cheered until he reappeared to sing “High Tone Woman,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “The Cowboy Rides Away.”

Opening for George was the lovely, high-spirited Julianne Hough from “Dancing with the Stars” fame. Singing several numbers including “That Song In My Head” and “My Hallelujah Song,” Julianne lit up the stage with her energy and charm. She humbly thanked her fans for the success of her country music career thus far.

Blake Shelton followed Julianne, bringing wit and humor to the show as only he can. Singing some of his more light-hearted songs like “The More I Drink” and “Some Beach,” Blake had the crowd laughing along but it was his cover song that got the biggest reaction. Asking George for some advice since not everyone would know him or his music, Blake said George advised him to choose a song that most folks would be familiar with and could sing along to. Blake then sang the most unusual cover song I’ve ever heard: the theme song from “FreeCreditReport.com” – if you watch TV, you’ve definitely seen and heard the song. The crowd erupted with howls of laughter as Blake sang the commercial jingle.

Now that Blake had the crowd’s attention he proceeded to sing his classic “Austin,” then said he’d been looking forward all day to singing his next song which was Michael Buble’s “Home.” He also sang “Green” followed by “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” and concluded his set with “Ol Red.”


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Keith Urban & Dierks Bentley - Roanoke, VA


After juggling schedules, arranging babysitters, and traveling hundreds of miles, my friends and I descended upon Roanoke, VA along with thousands of others to “Escape Together” with Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley May 29th at the Roanoke Civic Center. We’d been looking forward to this night out for months and it had finally arrived!

As a member of Dierks Bentley’s Fan Club I applied for and won a meet and greet with him. It was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. – the moment the doors opened. Security graciously allowed all fan club members to enter early then led us to a hallway where we waited for admittance into a room to meet Dierks. When we entered, Dierks greeted us then took time with each individual, speaking directly to them. I had prepared a small gift bag which included coffee for Dierks and some cute little socks for his daughter, Evie. Dierks was like a big kid and said, “Ooohhh – what’s in the bag???” He proceeded to open it, took a deep whiff of the coffee, asked where it was from (my hometown), then held it out for his tour manager to smell and declared it “awesome!” He also thanked me for the socks saying they were perfect.

After meeting each individual and getting a group photo Dierks gave us time to ask a few questions. Someone asked what was on that CD he gave George Strait on the ACM TV Special. He said they just wanted him to give George a blank CD as a prop but Dierks actually gave George a song he had written. He said George told him that he’d put it with all the other songs he gets everyday. Dierks shook his head, laughed and said, “I can’t believe he said that to me! But then only George can say that and get away with it.”

Someone else asked what his next single would be from his new album and Dierks replied, “We’re gonna play it tonight – “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes.”” Everyone nodded their approval. Then Dierks said he needed to get going so the concert could start on time. He hugged the ladies goodbye and shook hands with the guys. We left the room convinced that Dierks Bentley is one of the nicest country artists in the business.

True to his word Dierks started the show at 7:30 p.m. sharp. He was a fireball on stage, running from side to side, jumping up on monitors or the drum stand, absorbing the energy from the crowd and giving it back again. “Sideways,” “How Am I Doin?” and “Free & Easy,” were highly energetic songs. He and the band did a wonderful bluegrass rendition of “Come A Little Closer.” He pulled a fan onto the stage to watch a video with him. They laid down and donned 3-D glasses at the beginning of “What Was I Thinkin’?” then Dierks jumped up and sang the song live. He frequently interacted with fans that were closest to him, giving “high-fives” and chatting them up. It was a great opening for the main attraction.

The lights went down, a smoky mist filled the stage as Keith Urban strolled to the center mic and began his set appropriately with song “Hit the Ground Runnin’.” In total it was a non-stop, fast paced, rollercoaster thrill ride. The audience sang along with many familiar hits like “Days Go By,” “Where the Blacktop Ends,” “Sweet Thing,” “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me,” “Kiss A Girl,” and “Somebody Like You,” just to name a few. Keith performed a total of 20 songs not to mention the times he stepped back and gave his band members (Brad Rice, Chris Rodriguez, Brian Nutter and Jerry Flowers) an opportunity to shine with solos of their own. Then there was the duet with Dierks – “Take It To the Limit” – which was absolutely priceless! (Many thanks to Kristen for the video) Dierks had the words to the song written on his arm. Mid-verse Keith spied them and held up Dierks’ arm for all to see the evidence. Dierks claimed he just wanted to be like Keith with a tattoo on his arm. Later during the song when Chris Rodriguez was playing a guitar solo Dierks showed Chris his arm insisting he also had chords on there for Chris’ benefit. It was hilarious and we were all rolling with laughter then singing at the top of our lungs when it was our turn to join in.

During the concert Keith ventured out into the crowd twice. Utilizing the catwalk ramps he walked back to the rear stage for “Once in a Lifetime,” and “Making Memories of Us” then returned to the main stage. Next he walked out and up into the stands as he played “You Look Good in My Shirt.”

The center catwalk served as a wonderful spot for “You’ll Think of Me,” and “Raining On Sunday.” The special effects were phenomenal for my new favorite “Til Summer Comes Around” where Keith does an amazing guitar riff.

I have to mention the incredible screens and lighting here. Those 5 huge screens are very mobile. As they swivel on tracks they can be directly behind Keith and the band reflecting footage from the film crew or recorded images, they can also swing up at an angle or even hang directly above them like a ceiling, creating swirling effects and mysterious moods. It’s quite a sight to behold. I was on sensory overload!

This truly was a great escape for my friends and me. It ranks up there as one of the best concerts I’ve seen in a long time. I’m looking forward with much anticipation to my next “escapade” in August when Keith is joined by Sugarland.

Kristen's Video:

Keith Urban - Dierks Bently Take It To The Limit

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jason Michael Carroll Concert - Charlottesville, VA 5-23-09


My friend, Lisa, and I visited beautiful downtown Charlottesville, VA this past weekend and saw Steve Azar, Keith Anderson and Jason Michael Carroll at the Charlottesville Pavilion.

I hadn’t seen Steve Azar in concert since December 2006 and let me just say the man puts on a fantastic show. He is extremely entertaining on guitar and I love the jazz / blues twist he gives to many of his songs. He introduced his new tune “Moo-La-Moo” in addition to playing some old favorites like “Waitin’ on Joe” and “I Don’t Have To Be Me ‘Til Monday.” I could have listened to more but all too soon the set was over and Steve was gone.

Next on stage was Keith Anderson. Now this guy has the ability to sing a rowdy number then turn right around and sing something so moving it gives you chills. He is “tough and tender” personified. And he has quite a following as evidenced by the sign waving ladies in the audience who volunteered to be the object of one of Keith’s famous hugs when he sang “Somebody Needs A Hug.”

Lisa and I were quite surprised by the average attendance at this concert. Of course it WAS a holiday weekend (Memorial Day) and it IS a college town with University of Virginia being so close by. Most of the college students have gone for the summer. Obviously their loss was our gain.

When Jason Michael Carroll stepped onto the stage he invited everyone in the back and on the lawn to move up closer. A few of the folks in the front row didn’t seem too happy about that but Jason made everyone up there feel welcome as he sang and signed almost anything anyone handed to him – shirts, hats, tickets, etc. This is a wonderful gesture when done in moderation. Quite frankly I would have liked to see more of Jason’s face looking out at the crowd relating to the whole audience as he conveyed the message of his songs. Plus the boy can definitely dance and that’s always fun. Jason is energetic in his performance and I love the deep resonant tone of his voice. His southern charm comes through whether he’s singing country rock like “Barn Burner” and “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead” or a ballad like “Alyssa Lies.”

Jason’s son, JW, is adorable and he joined Jason on stage for “George Strait Cover Band” and “Livin’ Our Love Song,” mimicking his father’s moves, singing into his own little microphone. Jason has even taught JW how to make a “rock face” by sticking out his tongue and holding up pinky and pointer fingers. The crowd was charmed by this small lad.

All in all it was a delightful concert and an enjoyable day. We had a great time singing, dancing, and listening to both new and familiar music on a beautiful, summer evening. Who could ask for anything more?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Casting Crowns perfoms in Charlottesville, VA 5-15-09


The Grammy winning contemporary Christian music group, Casting Crowns, performed for a very receptive crowd Friday, May 15th, at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA. If you are unfamiliar with Casting Crowns, it is comprised of 7 very talented individuals: Mark Hall, lead vocals; Megan Garrett, piano , vocals; Melodee DeVevo, violin, vocals; Juan DeVevo, guitar, vocals; Hector Cervantes, guitar, vocals; Chris Huffman, bass, vocals; and Brian Scoggin, drums.

Performing several songs from their current album “The Altar and the Door” lead vocalist Mark Hall explained, “"When we're at the altar, everything makes sense, we know what we're supposed to do. We know how we're supposed to live. Everything's black and white. But somewhere between the altar and the door, when we leave and go out into our lives, it all leaks out, and everything gets gray again. The Christian life is the journey between the altar and the door, trying to get the things you've got in your head, your hands, your feet, and into your life.”

Mark often referred to himself as “a dork” and someone who is on the journey himself. He has a wonderful gift of communication, making you feel as though he’s the guy next door. Someone you can relate to, someone who understands. And that’s not surprising for when he isn’t touring with Casting Crowns he’s a Youth Pastor in McDonough, Georgia.

Mark kept the audience entertained with stories behind the songs and countries the band has visited. When he shared about their trip to Korea we found ourselves encouraged to sing along in Korean, laughing as we made the attempt.

Many in the crowd joined in singing well known praise songs like “The Voice of Truth,” and “Who Am I?” Megan Garrett gave a masterful performance of “I Know You’re There” and Melodee DeVevo’s violin solo on “Praise You With the Dance” was invigorating! Hector Cervantes rocked the house with his rendition of “My Redeemer Lives.”

Speaking a word of caution before singing “Slow Fade” Mark encouraged us to guard our hearts and minds with what we watch, read, and listen to. "People don't crumble in a day. You don't fall, you fade," Hall explains. "In your mind, there's that pride that says 'I'd never do that'... but you don't just do it, it's a slow series of compromises, little ones that go there, until eventually you're sitting in a place you'd never go, doing something you'd never do... and yet the way you're living totally makes sense to you somehow because you're so numb."

Songs like “If We Are the Body,” and “What If His People Prayed” challenged us to a more responsible walk of faith. Casting Crowns knows just where to shine the light. I came away refreshed, renewed and hopeful for a better tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jimmy Wayne Benefit Performance in N.C. 4-18-09


On my way home from visiting family in Georgia I stopped in North Carolina to hike up Crowder's Mountain with none other than country music artist, Jimmy Wayne. After opening for country superstars like Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley, he was back in his home town to perform a benefit concert at Gardner Webb University in support of the Cleveland-Rutherford Kidney Association. For the past 4 years he has organized a hike on the day of the concert followed by a cold treat at Tony's Ice Cream in downtown Gastonia.

Jimmy lead the way of the one-mile hike occasionally dropping back to check on the slower hikers then sprinting ahead to the front of the line. At the top we paused to catch our breath and take in the beautiful views, enjoying the sunny afternoon. Jimmy casually chatted with folks and posed for photos before heading back down the mountain.

That evening as we gathered at the convocation center at Gardner Webb University there were 1,200 foster kids in attendance thanks to the "Cheeks in the Seats" donation and sponsorship program. Jimmy Wayne has not forgotten his roots nor where he came from. He sang many crowd favorites including his number one hit, "Do You Believe Me Now." He shared his story of bouncing from various foster homes, feeling worthless, and living the life of a juvenile delinquent until an elderly couple took him in at the age of 15, loving him into wholeness. His is a message of faith and hope which he shares unashamedly knowing that there are many kids in similar situations today.

Not only is Jimmy Wayne talented vocally but he is blessed with the ability to connect with his audience and communicate from the heart. His unique gift of storytelling has translated into a successful career of songwriting. I was thoroughly entertained as he shared his life and music with us throughout the evening.

As I stood to go I was painfully reminded of our earlier climb on Crowder's Mountain. Jimmy Wayne has faced many challenges struggling up the mountain of life - "believe in yourself," "you are valuable," "you have a purpose in life" are words that have gotten him to the top. Thanks for the inspiration Jimmy!


Monday, March 30, 2009

Randy Travis - Ft. Worth, Texas

My husband and I were recently in Texas to visit our son and daughter-in-law and take in the sights. After an evening at the Rodeo in the Stockyards of downtown Fort Worth we left the Cowtown Coliseum and went around the corner to Billy Bob's Texas where we heard Randy Travis was going to perform. When we walked in I was overwhelmed with the noise and flashing lights of pinball machines, the press of people crowded around pool tables and bar stools, and the couples moving on and off the dance floor. The place was enormous! We finally wound our way around to the roped off section where rows of tables were set up in front of the stage. Our tickets were checked and we were escorted to our seats just in time to see Randy Travis and his band take the stage.

Randy was wearing his best "Aw shucks, ya'll" demeanor and that million dollar smile of his as he sang many hits and crowd favorites throughout the evening. Having just appeared on American Idol with Carrie Underwood two days before, Randy related the following story: Two teenage girls met him backstage and said how much they loved seeing him on the show singing Carrie's song, "I Told You So." A young man next in line corrected the girls saying, "I believe that's your song, isn't it Randy?" "Things like that will keep ya humble" Randy declared as he proceeded to sing his song "I Told You So" (originally released in 1988) resulting in a standing ovation.

Among the many songs performed that night, applause resounded for past hits like "Diggin Up Bones," "Three Wooden Crosses," "He Walked On Water," "Deeper Than the Holler," "King of the Road," "On the Other Hand" and the classic, "Forever and Ever, Amen." Randy moved effortlessly from one song to the next, occasionally stopping to embellish with a joke or story.

At the end of the show Travis remained on stage at least 15 minutes signing autographs and shaking the hands of faithful fans who squeezed their way to the front to say thanks for the music.

I'm so glad we had the opportunity to experience Randy Travis in concert at Billy Bob's Texas.