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Keith throws a party, while Nichols keeps it country

Sleep Train Amphitheater, Marysville, Cal., September 24, 2006

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

With a name like the Hookin' Up and Hangin' Out Tour, Toby Keith was expected to throw a party Sunday night.

While he performed most of his hits from the past half-decade during his 100-minute set, Keith's product placement and advertising went a little overboard, to say the least.

Keith's introduction was preceded with a five-minute video showing stereotypical Hollywood producers pitching silly reality show ideas to Keith, all of which he rejected.

He then decides on his own reality show, which features his Ford F-150 truck. When he hits the stage, there's the truck behind the stage with two fan galleries of fans on each side of the truck. Keith also showed a trailer of his new film "Broken Bridges."

When he wasn't trying to sell trucks or movie tickets, Keith turned in a strong performance backed by a 10-piece Easy Money band, featuring a jazz section.

Keith opened with "Big Bull Rider," a song from the "Broken Bridges soundtrack and then jumped into hits like "Honky Tonk U," "Get Drunk and Be Somebody" and "Whiskey Girl."

Keith rarely spoke to the audience, and when he did, it was only to come through with a clever segue into his next song.

One highlight was his duet with Lindsey Haun, the lead actress in "Broken Bridges" whom Keith introduced after showing the trailer. After their duet, Haun shined on her hit single "Broken."

Keith often changed the lyrics to some of his hit songs, such as "I Love This Bar", in which he added to the bar patrons - "bad-ass soldiers that go out on all-nighters."

On "Beer for My Horses," Keith made a reference to hoping Scott Peterson, who lived about 120 miles south in Modesto, gets what he deserves.

Unfortunately, Keith only sang two songs from his slew of 1990's hits - "Should Have Been a Cowboy" and "A Little Less Talk (And a Lot More Action).

Keith, delivering on his reputation as a patriotic artist, performed "American Soldier" and "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" for his encore. The latter was followed by a massive release of red, white and blue confetti.

Joe Nichols opened with a 45-minute set that focused more on traditional country music than overproduced country-rock. Nichols opened with "Brokenheartsville" and "Size Matters" as the audience sang the tunes back to him. The Arkansas native spent more time talking to the audience and watched as fans held up cell phones, in place of lighters, as he performed "She Only Smokes When She Drinks."

Although Nichols' performance of his own hits was impressive, the highlight of his set was a tribute to outlaw country.

Nichols showed he could be comfortable in the 1970s-'80s era of country music when he performed the Dukes of Hazard theme song, "A Country Boy Can Survive," "Okie from Muskogee" and "Family Tradition."

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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