Story and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisThe face of country music has evolved extensively over the last few decades with the days of classic twang, gloom and doom moving over for a more contemporary pop influence with positively. Though the boundary lines have been blurred, there were still remnants of both the classic and the contemporary on the genre's leading tour of the summer, simply dubbed Two Hats and a Redhead. The billing pitted veteran songstress Reba against the relative new kid in town Brad Paisley with their prominently known guitar-playing friend Terri Clark. Despite coming from different geographic backgrounds, sets of circumstances and song selecting processes, all three were dedicated to boldly proclaiming their beliefs under a southern fried umbrella that packed out the Tweeter Center on its opening night.
Reba was obviously the main attraction, coming off over twenty-five years of performing, recording and entertaining in all facets of entertainment. Her latest CD Room To Breathe marks her first album of all original material in four years, which follows up some time dabbling in the fashion world and establishing a sitcom television series. A centerpiece message that ran through her performance could be found it that program's very theme song "I'm a Survivor," a call out for anyone facing adversity to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and get on their feet again.
The red headed wonder woman sure has overcome a lot over all these years, including stereotypes set within the industry, but perhaps even most daunting, staying relevant in a sea of stunning faces like Faith Hill and Shania Twain. But Reba put those dolled up darlings to shame as she unloaded her boisterous pipes throughout recent offerings like "Somebody" and "My Sister," backed by one of Nashville's best bands in the business. Besides touching on the present, she also unloaded material from a trio of greatest hits releases, some of which pumped with spunk and others brimming with emotive balladry.
She was best off on barnburners like "Is There Life Out There, "Little Rock," and "Walk On," though the always-powerful "Rumor Has It" resonated with unhindered fervor even in the massive confines of the venue. However, it wasn't the Tweeter's size, but the overly sentimental mush of "He Gets Them From Me" and "Fear of Being Alone" that caused them to fall much short of the aforementioned prizes. Yet even with the sometimes sappy state, the tender hearted "Does He Love You" (normally a duet with Linda Davis, but featuring the lower voiced Clark plus Paisley on guitar) demonstrated additional diva-like range and rose as one of the concert's most charismatic crests. Paving the way prior was long tall hat tipper Brad Paisley, who first burst into the market at the close of the 90s. Even in that short amount of time, the singer/songwriter has cranked out five million album sales and trio of number one singles. The rising star was undoubtedly the most instrumentally intricate throughout the spectacle, taking bluesy, honky-tonk nods towards George Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens and even Elvis Presley instead of selling out to Garth Brooks-like glamour. That down home feel, along with inviting songwriting, made him dually entertaining, especially on material from his newest disc Mud on the Tires. The hysterical "Celebrity" touched on the fallacy of famous people, "Little Moments" spoke of the sacredness each day can bring, while "Whiskey Lullaby" covered hard living through a double character suicide.
Opening up the event to the casual indifference of patrons trying to find their seats was Terri Clark, who's been around a bit longer than Paisley but still got stuck with the less than desirable slot. Her pleasant but somewhat generic offerings were culled off last year's Greatest Hits 1994-2004, with the single serving "Girls Like You" as her most energetic. Yet compared to the night's shining star, it was merely warm-up filler that shaved the other two performers' sets a bit shorter.
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