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Girls With Guitars proves different this time

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa., October 26, 2016

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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Pittsburgh can now count on two country shows at Heinz Field each year. Kenny Chesney, of course and the more intimate "Girls With Guitars." The latter is played indoors in a club lounge area which seats several hundred. The title is a bit misleading as only a few of the all-female lineup actually play. They typically sing while accompanied by their band's lead player on acoustic. This time, it was a little different. Two of the five acts featured female lead players, namely the excellent Brandy Clark, all three members of the Dixie Chicks clone band Runaway June and The Band Perry's Kimberly Perry.

Jessie James Decker opened to the wild delight of teenage girls in attendance. She has only one full length album to her credit and tried to make the most of a very short opening slot performing mostly songs with sass like "Bullet," which features Katy Perry on background vocals on the album. The few songs she was allotted were not enough to reveal the depth of her talent, but the glossy pop and flawless hair and makeup make her a clear representation of the pop country template so prevalent in the genre.

Brooke Eden, who followed, is cut much from the same mold. What Clark brought in songwriting cred, Eden matched in marquee opening gigs wit acts like Alan Jackson, Keith Urban and Sugarland. With only an EP released, not much material was recognized except for the hit "Daddy's Money."

All of Runaway June's members played guitar and provide soulful harmony. They boasted John Wayne's granddaughter as a member. Mandolin picker Hannah Mulholland added a bluegrass feel to the upbeat breakup song "Lipstick" which she introduced with, "This song isn't about smashing headlights or blowing things up."

Some artists have had a good go of it thanks to Clark, namely the headliners who cut "Better Dig Two." Miranda Lambert rode "Mama's Broken Heart" to the chart summit while Reba, Sheryl Crow Darius Rucker and Keith Urban may owe a favor to Ms. Clark. Her subtle picking on acoustic and silky mezzo soprano lent a coffee house vibe to the evening with songs like "Daughter "and "Love In The First Degree."

The Band Perry has been one of country's most capable openers since their emergence in 2010. Led by Kimberly Perry's infectious charisma and boundless energy, the sibling power trio's big sound capably carries outdoor amphitheaters and arenas. As the marquee headliner In this rather intimate venue, they were equally effective shifting between their brute force power on "Done" and "Chainsaw" to the signature ballads "If I Die Young" and "Postcard From Paris" where Neil's mandolin shone brightly. They closed with a four-song medley and included the curveball of Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls" where Kimberly had no trouble channeling Freddie Mercury's spirit with a flamboyant version of her own.