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Randy Travis: stays on target most of the time

Sun Theatre, Anaheim, Cal., Dec. 14, 2000

By Dan MacIntosh

ANAHEIM, CA - Randy Travis consistently puts himself in uncomfortable situations whenever he performs in Southern California. On his last time through, he played his first ever show with an orchestra, and this time out he spent his West Coast time recording a live disc and DVD. Talk about pressure!

But the lanky fellow with the smooth singing style rarely shows any fear, and this performance backed up that assertion. This was an hour-plus set of mainly hits, along with a few surprises.

The best surprises came when Travis performed two tracks from his recent "Inspirational Journey" release. Although this album may not be is most consistent offering to date, his two live choices from it were exceptional ones. With a stripped down acoustic guitar and group backing vocal arrangement, "Shallow Water" shined with an Elvis and the Jordanaires-esque feel. The autobiographical "Baptism" was also truly inspirational.

The least welcome surprise of the night came when Travis performed "Horse Called Music," which - though never a hit - remains a favorite for the performer. Accompanied by nothing more than his own acoustic finger picking, Travis hit numerous flat notes while singing this quiet cowboy lament. Perhaps it was here that his nerves finally gave him away.

Most surprisingly of all, though, was how about half of the audience then proceeded to give him a standing ovation when he was finished. Were they even listening?

To be fair, this was only a momentary lapse of musical accuracy, since Travis was on target for the better part of the night. Besides, even live recordings usually ventually get fixed in the mix.

Travis might also be advised to avoid trying to be a comedian, since he seemed to be straining himself with the few jokes he attempted. These weren't even new jokes, since he told the exact same ones the last time through. In other words, he'd be better served by just sticking to the singing.

If you were already a Travis fan, this night displayed plenty of good reasons to love the man. He is oftentimes at his best when singing songs of undying devotion, such as with "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Deeper than the Holler."

Another large portion of Travis' repertoire is dedicated to the kind of lover who is a whipped pup. He played Mr. Pitiful in "Is It Still Over?" and "Before You Kill Us All."

Within each of these distinct personas, Travis excelled most of the time. These are musical personalities he's quietly perfected.

While it wasn't exactly a perfect night of music, Travis remains true to his country roots and for the most part, this was a fine example of what modern country can be.

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