Well, last night I made my first appearance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.The Houston readers know exactly what I'm talking about, but in case you've happened onthis site from points outside of Texas, let me explain the phenomenon. Every year, this isthe biggest event in Houston. It lasts about 2 1/2 weeks and it is one of the premierrodeo events in the world. Each night, there are rodeo competitions and after the bullridin' and bronc bustin' a different country music artist performs. The biggest names incountry are here. There is also a Black Heritage Day in which Earth, Wind, and Fire playedthis year, and a Tejano Day with Emilio. In addition to the rodeo events and concertsthere is a huge livestock and agricultural trade show. This all takes place in thehumongous Astrodome complex.
Clay Walker, 2/24/97
I'm not a huge country fan, but I like good music of about any genre. My sister camealong with me and boy was she in heaven. There's nothing she enjoys more than rodeos,country music, and her favorite performer, Clay Walker, who just happened to be in thespotlight last night. I have to say it was a very enjoyable performance. The Astrodome asa venue is a difficult place for any performer. You see, a revolving stage is brought outonto the rodeo floor and the closest audience member to the stage is easily 75 feet away.I have seen performers in the past have problems with establishing contact with theaudience in this format, but not Clay. First of all, he came riding out on a beautifulhorse with his hat off to the crowd and did a complete circle of the dome beforedismounting and grabbing his guitar for the first number "White Palace". He hadan excellent rapport with the cameras that were broadcasting his image on the two largescreens at opposite corners of the 'Dome. He had the most appealing and sincere smile ashe sang crowd favorites "Hypnotize the Moon", "This Woman and ThisMan", and "Rumor Has It". He had the entire audience (47,000+) singingalong to "If I Could Make a Living Out of Loving You" and afterwards commentedto his hometown crowd (he's from closeby Beaumont) 'only in Texas'. He even tried his handat keyboards with covers of "Lean on Me" and "Louie, Louie", anddanced around to Van Morrison's "Brown-eyed Girl" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's"Sweet Home Alabama". He sang a new song called "Then What" afterintroducing some percussionists that added a Jimmy Buffetlike quality with steel drums andbongos. He sang a moving rendition of "Amazing Grace" after commenting on thepositive nature of his condition with his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis last year. Heoften came out to the edge of the stage to reach out to the fans and for his final number,exited the stage entirely and ran the entire perimeter of the Astrodome while singing"I Know What Love Is, What's It To You". Then he mounted his horse again for hisfinal circle of the crowd and his last goodbye.
His band was composed of primarily guitars with Clay and one other gentleman onacoustic and an electric and bass. A steel guitar rounds out the strings with regulardrummer, special percussionists mentioned above, and a fiddle player. Clay's voice wasclear and strong and showed more range than the song's I've heard on the radio. This is atalented person with an excellent stage presence and a sincere appreciation of hisaudience. Country music lover or not, anyone can find something to love about Clay.
Reba McIntire, 2/26/97
As mentioned above, I wouldn't consider myself a big country music fan, but there aresome artists that I have seen and enjoyed in the past. Reba is one that I have seen on twoother occasions prior to this week's Rodeo performance. I have to say that I left theAstrodome last night a bit disappointed. The great thing about Reba outside of heroutstanding talent, is that her shows are usually more of a spectacle or a gala event thanlast night's performance indicated. There's usually lots of choreography and many costumechanges and a bit of meaningful banter from Reba to the crowd. Often extensive props areused to create the spectacular vision usually associated with her shows. Last night's showwas really Basic Reba. She opened with "Why Haven't I Heard From You", afterarriving in a convertible. Her band was assembled in a row on stage, having moved from theAstrodome floor where they had been positioned the night before (I talked to a couple ofpeople who attended that show). Reba was recovering from a broken leg received whileskiing recently, so her movements were limited, but none of the rest of her entouragepicked up the slack either. Reba covered most of her big hits and played a few of theoldies in her repertoire, highlights being "The Greatest Man I Never Knew", asong about her father, and "The World Didn't Stop for My Broken Heart", afterdescribing the anguish felt after the death of her band members in a plane crash severalyears ago. Linda Davis is still backing up Reba, even though she has had some success onher own. Their duet of "Does He Love You, Like He Loves Me", will always be oneof my favorites as it spotlights the vocal range of both singers, so poignantly describingjealousy from both the wife and mistress perspectives. Reba ended with another of myfavorites "Fancy", but that was just as the crowd was starting to get into theshow. Even though Reba's voice was beautiful and her band obviously filled with talent,this was a lackluster performance in comparison with other times that I've seen her. Iguess she's entitled to a flat performance every now and then. I could blame it on thevenue, but I saw her handle the removed setting of the Astrodome marvelously last year. Ifshe was in pain from her recent injury, I have to give her credit for showing up. Ifnothing else, it proves that she doesn't need to be glitzy to display her talent, it'sjust a lot more fun when she is.
Vince Gill, 3/2/97
Final night at the Rodeo and I've had about all the calf roping I can handle for thenext year. However, sitting through the abusive acts against animals was well worth thewait for Vince Gill. Sometimes, when I see him on TV, I wonder why it is that I like himso much. He's usually all dressed up singing a duet with some big-haired country girl.But, all I have to do is remember his live performance at last year's Rodeo, and nowtonight's show, to remind me of his unique talent and presence. His performance could notbe described as dynamic or flashy. He appeared on stage as the lights came up, no grandentry on horseback or car, and lit right into "Liza Jane", one of his peppiertunes. Dressed simply in jeans and a black shirt, he proceeded to play a mix of balladsand heavier tunes that ranged his entire career as a country performer (he started out inrock as a member of Pure Prairie League in the late 70s). He is an extremely accomplishedguitarist, and brought out a different guitar for just about every number. He rocked onguitar solos for "What the Cowgirls Do" and "Don't Let Our Love StartSlippin' Away" and strummed rhythmically on the acoustic as he dedicated "JustLook at Us" to George and Barbara Bush. Apparently, he gave George a rough time onthe golf course that day, as he nominated the former Pres. for a "hard luckaward" for the round they played. He also sang "Ridin' the Rodeo" for theHouston crowd and explained that he was happy that it had recently been re-recorded andreleased by PerfectStranger. Two new songs were in the set, "Worlds Apart" and "HighLonesome Sound", with Vince having won a Grammy this week for his recent efforts.
Listening to him sing, I realized a feeling of peace had overcome me. Vince has thevoice of an angel, and makes you feel that you are being serenaded by him personally. Hesings beautifully whether alone or in harmony. I actually felt his pain when he sang"When I Call Your Name". I'd definitely answer if he called mine. He makes youfeel good when you feel bad. Vince's performance appeared easy and comfortable, but thelevel of talent and professionalism displayed can only be achieved through advancedmusicianship and years of experience.
If I have one note of criticism for Vince, it's that I liked his hair better when itwas shorter last year, but regardless of his hairstyle, Vince is a talented performer thatI will definitely see again. I just have to hold onto this feeling of melancholy joy untilVince night at next year's Rodeo.
On That Note, I'm outta here......
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