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McBride: fine voice, but where's the country

The Majestic Ventura Theatre, Ventura, Cal. Oct. 31, 1998

By Dan MacIntosh

VENTURA, CA - Martina McBride opened her Halloween night show by rising from the back of the stage, stretched out sideways on a prop couch. Although there's no denying that McBride is every bit the joyous soul who began by singing the song "Happy Girl," an argument can also be made that she also fits the bill of "too loud girl."

McBride spent her time on stage belting out each song - whether it be upbeat or ballad - with the full force gale of a hurricane. Along with her six-piece band, this vocal bluster created more than enough volume for your average hockey rink, but far too much sound for this small ornate theatre.

Shortly into her performance, McBride promised some fans who were yelling out requests that she would do her best to get to them, but because her band's music was planned precisely to synchronize with the video screen behind them, there would never really be any chance of set list variation. On one song "Safe in the Arms of Love" McBride even sang along with the video created for it, which didn't make a lot of sense. If the audience had only wanted to see videos, they could have stayed home and watched CMT.

To call McBride's music country would be committing the fallacy of guilt by association, since her sound is closer to adult contemporary music - with just the slightest hint of a southern accent.

Except for the pedal steel guitar player in her band - whose playing was kept well beneath the heavy keyboards and guitars in the mix - there weren't many country elements on this stage. Heck, there wasn't even a fiddle player around to recreate the recorded arrangement of her new single, "Wrong Again."

McBride sent the audience away predictably with "Valentine," a love song to her children. Utilizing the video screen once again -this time to roll a montage of baby pictures - fans were able to carry away warm family fuzzies.

For others, though, this night ended with a fuzzy ringing in the ears, brought on by a country sound system that could have given Metallica a run for their money. In spite of all this, though, one still heard an amazingly versatile voice. Here's hoping that McBride decides to take a ride on the unplugged train soon.

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