But the passionate country star obviously aspires to
a higher standard, sharing her musical evangelism of inspiration,
introspection and vision.
Her often philosophical, spiritual songs
draw the listeners in with her earnest and passionate delivery, rarely
crossing the line to become a little too heavy-handed. But the
infectious spirit McBride inspires would lose some of its power without
the beauty and genuine passion of her music. Looking snappy in a black
tunic spangled with glitter, loads of jewelry accents and high-heeled
boots, the 41-year-old mom kept the show moving, taking only a few
minutes here and there to say a few words. That made for a well-paced
90 minutes, squeezing in 21 songs, most of them familiar radio
In addition to virtually all of her big hits, this Kansas country girl pulled a pair of songs from Timeless
(RCA), her 2005 CD covering hits from her heroes, rolling through a
fast and punchy version of Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden” and getting
the audience to sing along on Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.”
The latter, played without an ounce of campiness by the McBride team,
seems a natural fit for her as many of her strong, proud statements put
her in the role of a woman asserting herself in dealing with her man
and a challenging world. Paying tribute to those two great stars is all
the reason needed for recording their songs and singing them on stage,
especially now that the “Country Radio” format has decided we no longer
need to hear them.
You could say that no member of her band
stood out, but it would be more accurate to say that they all stood out
as the perfect supporting cast for their boss’ gifted and tireless
vocal marathon. They had all bases covered as several of them shined on
multiple instruments. You name it, they played it, at least as far as
country instruments go. There was dobro, stand-up bass, grand piano and
fiddle, and when they needed a sound they couldn’t produce on stage,
some subtle synthesizing provided it. Oh well, that’s country in the
One thing that was missing was a soft,
gentle ballad. It just doesn’t seem to fit McBride’s take-no-prisoners
approach of the little woman with the big voice. Still, you really
don’t feel cheated on any level when the total package is this flawless
The dead-on impact of her very personal
song of parental devotion, “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” was a stunning
emotional moment. When she followed that with her soaring and
compelling vocal zenith, “Broken Wing,” brought an extended ovation and
led her to say what already seemed evident, that she’s very grateful
for her success and thrilled to be living her dream. Nothing could have
been more perfect than climaxing her set with “Independence Day,”
bringing the audience to its feet to share the flowing spirit of the
chorus and to send her fans home to dream. And dreams, or at least
visions, are Martina McBride’s gifts to the world.
It’s evident that this tour is a learning experience for its lead-off act, the youthful trio Lady Antebellum,
sure to be a nominee for this year’s award for dumb band name. They
played like three friends who are having a blast on their first time
out, which made their very short set entirely tolerable.
Their songs aren’t what you might call
memorable, but they have an unaffected charm that was refreshing. Their
best work was the credible male-female duet “All We Ever Need,” and the
band’s best voice, that of Charles Kelley, sounded fine on their first single, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” While the group’s only “lady,” Hillary Scott, dressed for the occasion in a cute black outfit, Kelley and Dave Haywood came on in what could be generously called casual. Come on, kids: This is the big time, so dress like it.
Middle act Jack Ingram’s
similarly scruffy look seemed to be a statement, his shaggy blond ’do
and half-grown beard part of his image as a country boy who rocks. This
was the 37-year-old Texan’s second show in Syracuse in the past six
months, having played as an opening act for Brad Paisley at the New York State Fair’s Grandstand on Labor Day weekend.
He confirmed that he’s more John Mellencamp than Alan Jackson, tearing through a set comprised of songs from his debut CD, This Is It
(Big Machine). There are some really hot tunes, too, with searing
guitar leads underscored by wailing steel guitar. Too often, though,
the instruments drowned out the vocals.
The Texas kid ripped off fine versions
of his best-known songs, especially his melodic anthem “Wherever You
Are,” mostly aimed at the many young women who somehow managed to get
front-row seats. Ingram got a little too chatty at times, however; his
clever guy rap about his garage refuge threatened to turn him into
Larry the Cable Guy.
But his daddy talk and touching love
song for his little girl, “Ava Adele,” was heartwarming. Note to the
crew: Get a photo of little Ava for the video screen when Ingram sings
about her. Talk about a no-brainer!
Kudos to everyone responsible for
getting this show together as the old arena looked great wired up with
tons of high-tech video gizmos never imagined when it was built.
Changeover times were short, getting the crowd out by 11 p.m.