The Honky Tonk Tailgate Party starts half way through
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos, Cal., Sept. 16, 2004
By Dan MacIntosh
CERRITOS, CA - This Southern California stop on the four-artist touring package titled "Honky Tonk Tailgate Party" felt unappealingly like sucking exhaust out of a tailpipe for about its first half, making it no party whatsoever. But Daryle Singletary's fine straight country singing, and especially Rhett Akins' charismatic closing set ultimately saved the day by finally getting this party started. Better late than never, one supposes.
Akins' disarming charm, added to a mixture of equal parts rowdy and tender songs, made his appearance at this approximately two-and-a-half hour concert well worth the time invested. His set included an acoustic guitar-accompanied reminiscence called "Old Dirt Road," which found him hearkening back to his Georgia roots, in addition to a lovely new brokenhearted ballad titled "Better Be Ready To Cry," which he'd recently written on the road during a particularly dull stopover in North Dakota (Is there any other kind?).
Right before Akins closed his portion of the program with the hit, "That Ain't My Truck," he stomped through another fresh redneck-y one called "Kiss My Country Ass," taking Southern pride to new crude extremes. His 'I am what I am' spirit was probably what inspired the outlaw-centric repertoire for this night's brief encore (that gathered together all four show participants), which leaned heavily on Hank Williams, Jr. ("Family Tradition") and Skynyrd ("Sweet Home Alabama").
Singletary preceded Akins by relying more upon pure vocal power, rather than Akins' party animalism. He opened with the whimsical "Redneckin'," but was at his best on the dead-serious "Old Violin," as well as his ode to traditional country singing, "That's Why I Sing This Way."
Oddly enough, Singletary spoke about his deep love for country music, and then transitioned to having his bass player sing a cover of "Anyway You Want It," originally a hit for stadium rock band Journey.
The less said about openers David Kersh and Chad Brock, the better. Still Brock's cover of Merle Haggard's "Big City" and his radio hit "What About Now" went over well.
Kersh opened the festivities with a nearly unrecognizable cover of Willie Nelson's "Hello Walls," which he foolishly sang at rapid fire pace. He came off as a faceless hat act; about as faceless as such acts get.
This year's edition of the "Honky Tonk Tailgate Party" lacked true star power and little worth writing home about during the first half of its journey, but at least it was saved its best for the last few miles of the trip.