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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisAt her core, Reba McEntire is a country singer with over 56 million albums sold, 64 Top 10 hits, 15 American Music Awards, a pair of Grammys, plus more trophies from her genre's array of outlets than could even be counted. However, the multi-faceted marvel is also just as well known in TV land, starring in a self-titled show that ranked #1 for six consecutive years on two major networks, not to mention movies, stints on Broadway, alongside her very own fashion, footwear and home decor lines.
Indeed, she was quite an impressive catch for Hammond's hot spot The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in its escalating line-up of A-listers, which paired with Reba's sheer star power, warranted an instantaneous sell out. In fact, those lucky enough to snag a ticket were treated to a rare intimate performance (at least by this amphitheatre and arena filler's typical standards), where the 59-year-old shared stories behind several of the songs she made famous, strung together in mostly chronological order.
Of course, Reba still brought one of Nashville's finest nine piece bands, had plenty of lights and a set that brought a little bit of down-home to just south of Chicago, though even with plenty to look at, music remained her number one priority. Early favorites like "Can't Even Get The Blues," "Somebody Should Leave," "Whoever's In New England" and "Little Rock" were pure bred country with no apologies, all of which could teach today's commercial starlets some serious lessons about unadulterated vocals, quality musicianship and all around class.
As the tightly packed 90-minute night unfolded, Reba transitioned towards her 1990s and 2000s outpourings, many of which possessed more rock and pop in their palette, but nonetheless managed to stay true to her roots. Highlights included the mighty ballad between a wife and her husband's mistress "Does He Love You," the colorful newer cut "Strange," a cover of her daughter-in-law Kelly Clarkson's "Because Of You" and the honky-tonker "Why Haven't I Heard From You." As Reba reemerged after a brief encore break in a stunning red gown, she tore into the all too appropriate "Fancy," suggesting that just she's just as sweet as she is sassy, while continuing to blur musical and cultural boundaries with a sheer presence that simply never goes out of style.
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