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Queen Reba is in the house

PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pa., February 17, 2022

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Reba McEntire is one of those rare artists that can capture an audience before the first note is played. The crowd was immediately in raucous high gear during the concert fill. When the lights blazed full on, it felt like she dropped a personality bomb.

The blue sequins, the flaming hair and the beaming smile washed over the 13,000 in attendance during the opening double shot of her first and most recent number ones, "Can't Even Get the Blues" and "Turn on the Radio." She quipped, "In between those two songs, there was a lot of life, music and hairspray."

On this night, the covers and a breakup medley shone brightly. Of course, Vicky Lawrence's "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" proved itself as a gold standard yet again. Brooks and Dunn made a virtual appearance for a duet on Vince Gill's "Oklahoma Swing." Gill then popped up on screen a few songs later and lent his angelic tenor to "The Heart Won't Lie."

The nine-piece band covered every sound from rockabilly to honky tonk and in textures and tempos ranging from tender and sweet to the ferocity and lightning speed of bluegrass. When McEntire did speak to the audience, she emphasized her faith, family and what life was like as a ranch girl.

She prefaced a mini heartbreak medley, saying "I love singing heartbreak songs. I guess it's because I can relate to them so well." It featured "Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain" and "Somebody Should Leave."

The midway point was marked by 2015's scorching breakup anthem "Going Out Like That." The deafening response to a relatively new song seemed to signal the possible surge of newer, younger fans becoming familiar with her music and not through her TV show or other projects.

As if sensing the very same thought, she asked the crowd "Is this anyone's first Reba concert?" A considerable number of hands rose up. What these newbies got for their money was a living legend that has been a driving force in country music over the last 30 years, showmanship and energy worthy of a Broadway production and two hours of very traditional country music, an element too often missing from the genre.

There are stars. There are legends, and then there's royalty. All hail the queen. She closed the main set with "Why Haven't I Heard From You" and "Take It Back" before the blustering version of her signature, "Fancy."

Opener Brittney Spencer threw in a mix of high octane country fused with a little soul.

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