t was obvious from the get-go this wasn't going to be your average radio-station-sponsored all-star show, especially when Phil Vassar opened proceedings with a piano-accompanied "America the Beautiful," and Lila McCann followed with an a cappella singing of "The National Anthem." And when a local Brownie troop led the audience in The Pledge of Allegiance, that just sealed the deal.
But "surprise" appearances by four soap opera stars throughout the day were reminders of how well this nationally recognized country radio station has reached its targeted female audience. So if you weren't a hunk like Ty Herndon, or singing the kinds songs middle-aged women can relate to -- as did Phil Vassar and Carolyn Dawn Johnson -- odds had it you wouldn't go over too well today.
Travis Tritt, the headliner, may have been the biggest name on the bill, but it was more than mere tiredness that prompted many to begin filing out early. He may have been basking in the glow of the "Down The Road I Go" album's success, but his longhaired rebel boy image was not the prototype of any country radio marketing whiz for this event.
Nevertheless, his "Best of Intentions" hit a soft spot, and "Put Some Drive in Your Country" added a little much-needed zip to the show.
Brad Paisley preceded Tritt aided only by an acoustic guitar. While he performed the expected hits, like "We Danced" and "He Didn't Have to Be," he also sang one new silly song about taking out an insurance policy on a box of expensive cigars -- with a fire provision. Paisley deserves more credit for his sense of humor, which is dry like Lyle Lovett's, only a lot less strange.
Jamie O'Neal was the last female artist of the night, and added touch of soul with her smoking version of "Son of a Preacher Man," in addition to her hits "When I Think About Angels" and "There Is No Arizona."
Rascal Flatts turned a short set of big hits into a jam session on its closer "One Good Love."
Phil Vassar's set was alternately billed as a guitar pull and a guitar jam session, but turned out to be neither. Instead, he sang a few of his hits, Carolyn Dawn Johnson sang a few of hers and Brad Paisley performed one he'd written for somebody else. With his Everyman songs, like "Carlene" and "My Next 30 Years," Vassar is setting himself up as country music's answer to Billy Joel.
Introduced, as something for the ladies (Wasn't everything?) Ty Herndon gyrated on his highly sexed hit "Steam," but also found time to try out his new single, where he gets killed in the middle of a bank robbery, of all things.
Chely Wright avoided the red, white and blue dress code, and opted for a Halloween orange t-shirt with the word "Jezebel" written on it. She also performed a song called "Jezebel," which is about a woman trying to prevent another woman from stealing her man away. Wright introduced the song as something her friend Loretta Lynn might well appreciate.
Rick Trevino's Latin All-Stars was the real wild card on the main stage, since his Latin music doesn't get played on the station at all. Still, the audience was patient with his Spanish language songs and some even danced along.
Opener McCann suffered from being the wrong kind of performer for this particular audience. And coming out dressed in her old cheerleading outfit didn't help matters, either. She tried, without much success, to work up a little audience enthusiasm on such songs as "Come A Little Closer."
The outdoor acoustic stage was more than a little misnamed. It was outdoors, but so also was the main stage. And except for Carolyn Dawn Johnson's performance, it wasn't even acoustic.
Despite technical difficulties, where the prerecorded track started her opening song in the middle three times in a row, Meredith Edwards was a real smiling trouper as she sang her heart out anyhow. Brian McComas followed Edwards on the tiny stage, and was most impressive on a fiddle-led cover of Tom Petty's "Listen To Her Heart." Carolyn Dawn Johnson sang her hit "Complicated," and much of the same material she would later sing with Vassar on the main stage. All deserve extra credit for showmanship, since much of the audience consisted of the line to the women's restroom, and people tailing by to get to the main stage.
All in all, this wasn't such a bad show-even if you weren't a middle-aged housewife.