The Biggest and Baddest Tour; Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, Carter's Chord, Trailer Choir, and Mica Roberts

Sunday, August 17, 2008

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It’s summertime. Summertime in the Virginia Beach, Virginia area means hot, humidity, and yes, those signature thunderstorms. For The Biggest and Baddest Tour, this was no exception. Fortunately, with a show time of 7:30pm, the severe thunderstorm that barely surfaced around The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater made the trip into the venue a wet one. However, by the time the first song began, the storm had subsided to a gentle rain for the lawn seating. The rain may have subsided just before the show, but the excitement and the enjoyment of good country music became immense.

A few moments early, Becky, Emma, and Joanna Robertson, known as Carter’s Chord took center stage. With a very professional and eye catching stage presence, the audience instantly fell in love with their energetic conveyance of “When We Get There.” This song showed off that special harmony that only three sisters can deliver. It’s not often that a lesser-known opening act gets the full attention of the audience from their first note… Carter’s Chord did just that. With their second song, the audience was even singing along to their lead single “Different Breed.” Sadly, that second song was the last from Carter’s Chord, the audience was left wanting more. Immediately following Carter’s Chord performance, Mica Roberts took stage with a bit more of a rockin’ country sound that also delivered a two song set that included “Get You Some of That” and “My Boyfriend is Out of Town.” Though performed very well, the audience was not as interested, yet enjoyed her performance. Though, most will not remember her in the coming days. The final Show Dog Nashville Showcase of new artists, the comically entertaining, yet, highly talented Trailer Choir took stage. Immediately the crowd reacted to Big Vinny dancing on stage with Butter and Crystal. The humorous song “Beer Gut” had all of us laughing out loud, applauding and most importantly, wanting more.

Let’s put it this way… have you ever seen a 350lb. country boy do the splits or do the snake… well, check out this talented group. The humor of the group was entertaining and was on the same par as their actual music. Their final song and current single, “Off the Hillbilly Hook” brought the crowd in even more, and wanting more. Ending on their feet in applause and “hell yeah’s” could be heard all around. This was an excellent way to promote the great talent of Show Dog Nashville. This crowd may have been here for the two big name acts, but left the show as fans of the full Show Dog Nashville label…just with a twenty-five minute showcase.

After a short ten-minute wait, a slimmed down microphone-toting Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry came to stage behind a white sheet of flashing lights and crowd preparing sounds for a high-energy rocking show. Beginning with “The Big Revival” from their newest album, it was quickly followed by Montgomery screaming “are you ready to party..” flowing into the more recognized “Ever Stopped Loving Me.”

With his signature black frock coat, white shirt, and black hat pulled down, Montgomery mentioned that we live in the greatest country in the world where we can dream as big and we want to dream as the crowd rose to the anthem “Something to be Proud of” exhilarated the audience with something just a bit special. That special feeling continued with the powerhouse low vocal delivery of Montgomery on “Lucky Man” ending the song commenting “I wanna thank you God... Troy and I are very luck men.”

With the crowd very attentive the power of the show stepped up another notch with “Hell Yeah” with the crowd jumping up and down in tune to the lyrics and music loving every moment of the song. Troy had a chance to feature his great vocal work on the newest single “Roll with Me” followed by a couple verses of “Thank God I’m Country Boy” that got the crowd on its feet for “Hillbilly Shoes” and a chance to sing along on “My Town” which had Montgomery Gentry hyped up and loving every minute of their performance. Even though still full of energy, the forty-five minute set came to a conclusion with the appropriately selected song “Gone” that had Montgomery jumping around and fired up as they exited the stage from a very pleased crowd.

With just under a thirty-minute wait, the crowd was ready for what they had been waiting for; Toby Keith. The lights went down, and a five minute video featuring Keith and co-star Rodney Carrington was shown that was a cross between a commercial for Ford Trucks and Keith’s new movie “Beer for My Horses.” A very entertaining and comical watch for sure, as you can imagine.

Now, it was time to get to business. The white curtain fell, the swirling fireworks exploded, the confetti fell on the crowd and a very confident Keith took stage with the Easy Money Band in place on a Ford Truck front grill shaped stage began to perform “She’s a Hottie” with a large video screen above the stage. Most shows, the confetti and pyrotechnics wait for the end of the show, but a Toby Keith show is like most shows.

As Keith began to go through his repertoire, it began apparent that the forty-seven year old Keith was very relaxed, well in shape, and his vocal delivery was nothing but perfection.

“Whiskey Girl” Keith was sure to get in “Virginia Beach” into the song and commented “My job is to get you so drunk you call in sick Monday.” Being a Friday night, that’s a task… however, I have a feeling that Keith can be proud that his job was accomplished by at least a few concert goers that evening.

“I Wanna Talk About Me” brought the crowd up another level as they screamed back the lyrics as Keith delivered them in a more of a conversational vocal style delivery. Keith took to the sidelines of the stage and allowed the Easy Money Band have a moment in the spotlight that featured the backup singer and their incredible horn section. Keith quickly took back over the show featuring a few slower paced songs including “Love Me If You Can” and “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me like This” and a new song, “Never Cried in Front of Me” that featured Keith’s powerhouse ballad vocal delivery from the to-be-titled new album that will be released later this year.

Keith doesn’t like to keep things too slow paced for long, neither does his audience. Keith took care of that with a guitar solo and performing “Who’s Your Daddy.” For the very few resting concert goers, they were back on their feet again.

His fans from the very beginning could easily be picked out of the crowd when his first number- one single “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” was elegantly performed, as the veteran fans sang out loudly and proud the lyrics right along with the smiling Keith. Well over an hour into Keith’s performance, his voice remained strong, crisp, and vocally attached to his high energy crowd.

Keith proposed a heart-filled toast to the firefighters, police, and armed forces. It certainly wasn’t difficult for the Keith fans to find a beer, since it was nicely already in hand. The toast continued into “Beer For My Horses” which Willie Nelson’s contribution to the song was available via video. No mention of controversy, nor mention of the movie, rather stepped up the pace with “How Do You like Me Now” sing-a-long.

Keith then gave his rock-music fans a treat by covering Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.” It wasn’t my highlight of the show; however select members of the audience certainly found it to be just that. I believe the song was in the show as a reference to the appearance of the song on the “Beer for My Horses” movie soundtrack. Never the less, the crowd still was at high attention.

Just over ninety minutes, Keith comes back for a very patriotic encore. A stage full of red, white, and blue lights filled the stage as a bone-chilling video played behind Keith’s intense vocal delivery of “An American Soldier.” There is nothing like a patriotic song in a strong military area. The American flags could be spotted around the amphitheater and continued to be held high through a portion of the National Anthem guitar solo and Keith’s signature American flag decorated guitar played “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” to end the night just a few ticks of the clock before eleven o’clock.

Keith has always been a master of a live performance. However, tonight there was something different about him. I felt like a re-dedication to the music had taken place in him fairly recently in his career. His conceded attitude, that some describe about him at times, seemed to be absent. He felt strong, comfortable, and creative. I hope the rest of the audience left with the same feeling.

I have attended countless concerts and performances. This night ranked up as top shelf. The Biggest and Baddest Tour is just that…big in the number of performers (5) and in Montgomery Gentry and Keith, some of the baddest performers. This is a show not to miss… that is for sure.