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CMA Music Fest, day one: Reba returns with a roar

LP Field, Nashville, June 7, 2007

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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Reba McEntire made her fans wait 11 years between CMA Music Festival appearences, but the superstar made up for lost time on Thursday night by capping of a high-energy show with 7 acts and nearly 4 hours of music.

McEntire's 35-minute set at the first stadium concert of the festival included a few of her greatest hits and a guest appearance by former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson. The duo excelled on Clarkson's "Because Of You," which they debuted last month at the ACM Awards.

Unfortunately, Clarkson only stayed on for one song, and we didn't get to hear her sing any McEntire stuff. It was vintage McEntire as she shined with "Fancy," "Does He Love You?" and "Is There Life Out There?"

Each of the shows had to be compacted from the artists' full show into a mini-set, and McEntire did an excellent job of fitting a bunch of chestnuts into it.

The show also featured Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Dierks Bentley, The Wreckers, Trace Adkins and Jason Michael Carroll.

None of the artists collaborated on stage, and the sets weren't consistent with timing. For example, Adkins was the second act in the show, and his set was longer than both The Wreckers and Bentley.

Jackson opened with "Gone Country" during his half-hour set and focused on his older material, although he did perform the new version of "A Woman's Love." The rest of the songs were Jackson's signature hits like "Chattahoochee," "Little Bitty" and "5 O'Clock Somewhere."

Brooks & Dunn, by contrast, performed several new songs during a similar set length. There was "Hillbilly Deluxe" where Ronnie Dunn asked one of the band members to make the introductory howling noises. And they also came through with a solid performance on "Proud of The House We Built."

Bentley played for about 25 minutes, and the highlight of his show was the performance of the fun anthem, "Free and Easy."

The Wreckers played an uninspiring 20-minute set, during which the first song "My Oh My" seemed to have audio difficulties. They didn't keep the high-level of energy that the rest of the artists did in their first festival appearence.

Adkins wowed the audience during a half-hour set with uptempo tunes like "Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk," "Swing" and "Rough and Ready." He also showed his appreciation for the fans by saying it's the best concert he'll play all year "because (you're) hard core fans who made the pilgrimage from wherever you came to our house, and we're glad to have you."

Carroll, a newcomer, only performed his two radio hits, "Alyssa Lies" and "Livin' Our Love Song." It was a solid performance, but fans didn't get a bigger glimpse into this artist. However, he's also performing at the Riverfront Stage this week.