Concert Reviews

Concert Review: George Strait and Martina McBride

March 18, 2013 // 3 Comments

GeorgeStraitConcertPicThis review of George Strait’s final Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo concert was originally published on CultureMap Houston.

It was 30 years ago that the Texas rancher and country music newcomer received a last-minute call to make his Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo debut, replacing the ill Eddie Rabbitt. Since then, George Strait has become part of the RodeoHouson fabric: He’s played a total of 21 shows, including the Astrodome’s closing concert in 2002 — its highest-attended event — and the Reliant Stadium’s debut concert in 2003.

Concert Review: Carrie Underwood with Hunter Hayes

December 3, 2012 // 10 Comments

Carrie Underwood with Hunter Hayes
The Blown Away Tour
Prudential Center
Newark, NJ
December 1, 2012

There’s a desirable sweet spot in every big performer’s career where they finally have a large number of hits to fill out a two-hour show, a compelling enough current album to sustain audience interest between the hits, and the appropriate level of earned confidence to take some bold risks in staging and presentation.

Carrie Underwood just hit that sweet spot.

Concert Review: Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan

October 18, 2012 // 16 Comments

Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan
Grits & Glamour Tour
Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center
Bowling Green, Kentucky
October 13, 2012

This past Saturday night, I had the immense pleasure of seeing two favorite artists of mine – contemporary country legends Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan – perform live in concert at the newly completed Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKyPAC) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The SKyPAC is a beautifully decorated 1800-seat venue with excellent acoustics, thus providing an ideal atmosphere for Tillis and Morgan’s fantastic Grits & Glamour show.

Concert Review: Martina McBride and Trace Adkins

March 11, 2010 // 10 Comments

By Guest Contributor Cory DeStein.

Over the river and through the snow to the ‘Shine All Night Tour’ we go…On this particular Saturday night a friend and I traveled through the snow and ice to attend the Martina McBride and Trace Adkins tour stop at the Peterson Event Center, here in Pittsburgh. This is the third time I have been fortunate enough to experience a Martina tour, along with the ‘Timeless’ and ‘Waking Up Laughing’ tour, and like those performances the country diva did not fail to deliver.

In front of a black back drop Trace kicked off the show, much to the delight of fan club section nestled quite noticeably to the right of the stage, rose onto the stage with his opening number “I Got My Game On” one of the many novelty songs he charmed the audience with throughout his one hour set.

Trace has one hell of a powerful voice, but he sadly didn’t go out of his way to show it throughout the show. He rather focused more on hits like “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” “Hot Mama” “Swing” and “Rough and Ready” along with other similar tunes. Towards the end of his set, he introduced his recently crowned ACM Song of the Year, “You’re Gonna Miss This.”

Patty Loveless, Stone Mountain Arts Center (Brownfield, Maine)

July 13, 2009 // 19 Comments

Country Universe is a site where timeless artists like Patty Loveless are not merely acknowledged, but embraced and celebrated. So when Leeann invited me to review my favorite artist’s Brownfield Maine concert as a guest contributor, I jumped at the chance. Thank you so much Leeann, Kevin and Country Universe for giving me this opportunity. And Leeann and Bill, it was a joy and an honor to join you folks for dinner and watch the concert with you. You both made this already memorable concert experience even more unforgettable for me, along with patty-loveless.net associates Nicole, Richard and Patti, and the following day Bob and Barbara, Kevin. And also, Marcia Ramirez from Patty’s band. Many, many thanks to all.

Patty Loveless at the Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield Maine

July 3, 2009

Nestled in the northern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, Brownfield Maine’s Stone Mountain Arts Center is a beautiful and intimate 200 seat converted barn turned listening room. It has a warm and rustic ambiance, and a very helpful staff. The wood beam framed building makes for a rich acoustical setting, almost like a giant, wooden resonator box. It is a hard place to find out there in the Maine wilderness, but well worth the effort, especially to enjoy artists and legends like Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley, Marty Stuart, Suzy Boggus and Kathy Mattea. Think of it as a quest.

CMA Music Festival 2009: Memory Grab Bag

June 20, 2009 // 10 Comments

I have to start with a disclaimer: I attended my first CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, as a fan –a crazy, passionate, kid-in-a-candy-store fan– and nothing more. So rather than offer you a full review of the festival, which I don’t think I can adequately do, I instead present you with a narrow but meaningful sampling of my favorite memories from the week.

Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley rock rain-soaked stadium until 2 a.m.

After a three-hour rain delay at LP Field Thursday night, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley played well into the morning to make up for the lost time. Despite the delay being somewhat poorly handled by management, an impressively large crowd of dedicated fans, draped in ponchos and drenched in humidity, waited around until after midnight for the concert to resume.

Stagecoach Music Festival: Day Two

April 27, 2009 // 12 Comments

What a difference a day makes. With Day One’s mishaps still fresh in my mind, I set out for Day Two of the Stagecoach Festival with a renewed sense of purpose and new insight on the day’s upcoming adventure. Keeping in mind lessons learned on Day One, I grabbed a map from the front desk of my hotel, set out early, purchased a chair on sale for $8 at Target, bypassed the long line in front of the main entrance to the Festival, and located a too-good-to-be-true back entrance to the parking lot. Amazingly, within five minutes of arriving at the polo fields, I was on my way to the Mane Stage with my new chair and re-filled water bottle in hand. (Kudos to Stagecoach for being so eco-friendly!)

As soon as possible after depositing my chair and blanket between a large stack of hay bales and the largest speaker I could find, I split for the side stages. With fewer people on the grounds, I finally realized how big the Festival actually was—it was huge! It had everything, from a CMT sing-a-long tent to a bucking bronco ride. It even had an abhorrent t-shirt tent full of homophobic and xenophobic t-shirts (an anomaly at an otherwise pretty classy event). Thankfully, on Day Two I also discovered the heart of the Festival: the bands playing in the two large tents off to the side of the Mane stage. The crowds weren’t nearly as large—at the beginning of the day, the large airy tents were mostly empty—but the smattering of hay bales were packed, the audience enthusiastic and the artists often times more talented than their famous peers on the Mane stage.

Stagecoach Music Festival: Day One

April 26, 2009 // 9 Comments

Live and learn. I did a lot of living and learning during my first day (ever) at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, California. First lesson: Don’t rely on MapQuest. I didn’t take the large black freeways on the map to the beautiful but bizarre desert retirement slash resort community that hosts Stagecoach. Or the smaller blue lines, or even the teensy red ones. I took the non-existent purple ones through the backcountry past unusual rock formations and the odd farmhouse. It was just me and the random tanker truck going mach negativo.

Second lesson: Show up early. The tanker truck and purple lines aside, I didn’t plan well. And any plans I did have were shot to h*** as soon as I arrived at the polo fields and, well, circled the fields at a crawl (which is a generous term) for nigh two hours before entering the parking lot. So, as I slowly watched the thermometer inch up towards 100 degrees on my dashboard, I kissed goodbye my plans for The Infamous Stringdusters and Lynn Anderson. I’m sorry, guys.

Third lesson: Don’t presume anything about country music fans. While I was very slowly making my way into the parking lot, I took notice of the cars around me. There was a BMW in front of me, a Porsche on my left and a Mercedes behind me. Hmmm…didn’t they hear that polo was cancelled this weekend? But no, the fancy cars were full of college kids, a large family and an old couple…all dressed in cowboy boots and hats and headed to the festival. I’d say welcome to country music, Southern California style: cowboy boots and Gucci purses, but that would cheapen the genuine spirit of those who attended the festival. While not precisely diverse, I doubt you will find a more overall wholesome group of people anywhere. You can only have organized chaos in a group this large with people like this.

Concert Review: Hayes Carll @ Belcourt Theatre, Nashville, TN

December 11, 2008 // 5 Comments

Hayes Carll Belcourt Theatre/Nashville, TN December 10, 2008 With his rich baritone, Hayes Carll is perfectly suited to deliver the barroom and bedroom tales of a troubadour who’s a hard-luck, heartbroken case. But to balance his more serious moments, he possesses a wry wit and ample self-awareness that soothes his doubts and disappointment.  On Wednesday night, he was a master of all emotions as he took the stage Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre to cap off the finest year of his career so far. An enthusiastic, but well-behaved, crowd hung on every word in Carll’s drowsy drawl. On this year’s Trouble in Mind, Carll’s roots-country, sharpened with a rock edge delivered him on the precipice of Americana stardom.  A pair of triumphs at the Americana Music Awards in September confirmed his status as a prime spokesman for an entire alt-country generation. Those with a nose for pretense have eschewed the contemporary country Read More

Concert Review: Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton

October 30, 2008 // 5 Comments

Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton Star of the Desert Arena Primm, NV October 14, 2008 In the better late than never category, on October 14, in between two of the craziest weeks ever, I made the trek to the middle of nowhere—Primm, Nevada—to watch two of my favorite mainstream country artists—Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton—perform together at the Star of the Desert Arena. Excellent separately, I was curious whether the sum of the whole would be greater than its individual parts. The answer is currently no, but the potential exists. Country music history is rife with stellar male/female duos, among them Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. Lambert and Shelton are not in this category, but clearly inspired by these pairings and having dated for the past year, they decided to take their home act on the road and Read More

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