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Toby Keith knows how to have a good time

Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H., February 1, 2007

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Toby Keith's world is one of good time singalong songs, showcasing the barflys, chest beating at the expense of exes and a solid in your face sense of patriotism.

Keith may not be the most subtle, understated performer out there, but at least he knows how to have a good time and make for an enjoyable evening.

While he started a bit off vocally for a few songs, Keith was on target thereafter. His baritone was mixed way high, almost always clearly heard above the music. Keith fortunately knows his way around a honky tonk song ("I Love This Bar" and "Get Up And Be Somebody") just fine, and while at times his recorded music has had a glisten to it, in concert, he came off as being more country ("Should've Been a Cowboy").

He also was quite fine in the kiss-off category, such as his new single, "High Maintenance Woman" and his huge career boosting hit, "How Do You Like Me Now"" where he overcomes his former girlfriend's thoughts that he'd never amount to anything. Keith has proved his naysayers wrong time and time again.

The big hulking Keith took second fiddle to Lindsay Haun, who starred with him in last fall's "Broken Bridges" movie, who came out for a few songs. Haun wasn't very country, but she sure has a strong voice.

Keith's Easy Money backing band cranked out the music capably with a three-piece horn section often punctuating the sound. But one also got the sense that there probably isn't a lot of variety and free flowing playing night after night.

Stage patter generally almost always consisted of quickly introducing the next song on the list. He's not a big mover and shaker up on the stage, generally staying at the center, wearing a white cowboy hat.

He also had a sense of humor, at least musically, playing "I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again."

Keith's songs sat well with the sold-out crowd, who had no problem connecting with Keith. They often would sing along without prompting. And they were the recipient of a big production with lights flashing (too often), confetti and streamers and flash pots going off.

While the music was satisfying, what was not was Keith's close connection with Ford. Not only did he introduce himself with a filmed intro about a "Hell No" variety show featuring the Ford-150 that Keith endorses, but he also had the truck in the center of the stage towards the back.

Apparently, there is no separating "art" from crass commercialism for Keith.

Too bad because Keith has enough quality, good time songs to avoid shilling so bluntly.

Miranda Lambert preceded Keith with a strong 30-minute set, mainly playing songs from her debut album, including the hot closing number "Kerosene."

Lambert was far better than an appearance almost exactly one year ago in opening for George Strait. At that point in her career, her sound was pretty devoid of country and rocked way too much, disappointing considering the quality of the album from the former Nashville Star contestant.

A year later, Lambert, instead, opted for a softer sound with her strong vocals being showcased.

The Texan also played two songs on the high powered side from her sophomore effort, due out in May, including the title track "Crazy Ex-Boyfriend."

Both new songs sounded good with "Everybody's a Hero in a Small Town," the second single, the stronger of the two.

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