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Brooks & Dunn Wild West Show just wants to have fun this year

Hyundai Pavilion of Glen Helen, Devore, Cal., May 24, 2003

By Dan MacIntosh

DEVORE, CA - Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn may not have intended to become weathervanes for America's social climate, but you can nevertheless get a pretty good read on where America's emotions are at, just by attending one of their annual "Neon Circus and Wild West Show" tour stops. Last year, the duo opened its concert with a whole lot of hoopla-filled celebration, via the patriotically centered "Only In America."

This year, however, that prized beginning slot was filled with the lustful "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You," instead. It was as if this highly popular pair just wanted to have fun and play the hits. After all the political and military conflict this nation has been through of late, it's okay to think about girls once again.

This year, Kix Brooks didn't stop to have a heart-to-audience talk about any serious issues, nor did the duo slow things down for an acoustic set.

Instead, Brooks & Dunn revved things up from the get-go for a high-powered hour-plus set of pop-honky-tonk chart-toppers. Although the group did perform the title track from its upcoming "Red Dirt Road" album, as well as one other new track, this show was mostly about playing fan favorites and keeping the mood upbeat.

Although the material they chose to perform has been around a while, Brooks & Dunn played its hand with a lot of enthusiasm. "Boot Skootin' Boogie" started with a blast of blues-y harmonica work from Brooks, and Dunn showed off the high end of his vocal range with "My Maria."

And thankfully, last year's ugly-as-sin, white trash blow-up dolly stage prop has been replaced by two better looking barroom balloon babes. This year's models ride on mechanical bulls, and book-end Brooks & Dunn for the audience sing-along of "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)." This was quite the sing-along kind of night, since everybody in the crowd knew almost every word that B&D sang.

Kenny Chesney, who was a relatively last minute addition to this bill, could have easily been called a co-headliner this night, due to the loud crowd response he received. The man's "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" party attitude would have worn thin quickly, had he not also worked in both the nicely autobiographical "Back Where I Come From" (which included a warm home movie segment on the big screens), and the value-filled "The Good Stuff." It turns out there really is a heart beating underneath all that cocky exterior of his.

Rascal Flatts celebrated its recent multiple ACM award winnings with an upbeat selection of songs, including a duet with American Idol contestant, Joshua Gracin, on "Moving On." The trio gave their set a little bounce with hits like "Praying For Daylight," and vocalist Gary LeVox reached for some nicely appealing Aaron Neville-esque vibrato on the emotional balled "While You Loved Me."

Brad Paisley was his always-delightful self, whether he was playing at breakneck speed, such as with "Two Feet Of Topsoil," or hushing things down, as he did on "He Didn't Have To Be." Paisley also performed "Celebrity," a funny new song about the pitfalls of being a celebrity, which was also accompanied by the on-screen video for the song. This long day of music began with short half-hour sets from Aaron Lines and Jeff Bates.

Brooks & Dunn's "Neon Circus" continues to be a bright spot on the country music calendar, and it's always a lot of fun to see what they've got going on under the big top.

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