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Trisha Yearwood belts out songs old and new

Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Lowell, Mass., March 9, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
The real deal of Trisha Yearwood in concert was a whole lot better than the prequel may have indicated it would be.

The problem was that before Yearwood even hit the stage, she was in a video with hubby Garth Brooks on a screen at the rear of the stage singing "In Another's Eyes." Okay, that was somewhat acceptable since it seemed likely Brooks probably wouldn't be showing up.

But then Yearwood followed that video with of her singing her hit "There Goes My Baby," which made no sense. Was this an attempt to pad the concert with a few videos at the expense of live songs?

Apparently not because soon Yearwood was out belting out hits old and songs new with a few deep catalogue songs thrown in starting right with the title cut of her last disc, "Heaven, Heartache And the Power of Love." The song may have been a semi-hit, but it is a keeper, catchy and emphasizing the big voice of the Georgia native.

Yearwood's voice is always strong, especially on the uptempo, bigger sounding songs (she turned in a great reading of "There Goes My Baby" even though it was on video only minutes before), while she had no trouble on the ballads either ("The Song Remembers When" and "Walkaway Joe"). Nor does she overdo it just to show off her vocal prowess.

Yearwood proved to be a very warm, engaging performer. She underscored that time and time again. She said that her last few tours tended to end up being greatest hits show, and she obviously wanted to avoid that.

The result was that Yearwood took requests from fans on her web site for songs to play in concert.

Kudos to her for playing "Near a Distant Shore," from her very first CD, a song that was not a single. "Did we ever do it live?" she asked her 17-year guitarist Johnny Garcia. "Maybe that's why I didn't remember it in sound check."

Truth be told, Yearwood couldn't remember a few words in concert, but no matter. She did a good job on the acoustic-based song.

"Almost," joked Yearwood about remembering all the words. "What happens if you start thinking about the lyrics that are next up, it's all over."

Yearwood also made it clear she was not going to do an encore. Now, that was not obnoxious in the least. She just was straight her fans, saying she thought it disingenuous to go through the motions of an encore, when everyone knows it's going to happen. So when the concert was over about 85 minutes after it started, it was over. P>She played five songs from "Heaven..." with the most country song of the evening being the swinging "Cowboys Are My Weakness." The CD is a solid collection of songs, and it's good that Yearwood gave it the attention it deserved.

Yearwood, who says she only does about 40 dates a year now, was not one who resorted to the same lines and set list night after night, making it all the more entertaining for herself and her fans.

Nor did she leave her biggest hit - her career song, "She's in Love with the Boy" - to end the evening. She introduced the song as Porter Wagoner's favorite song of hers, giving a tribute to the late country and Grand Old Opry star.

The show flagged slightly when Yearwood would rock out, which happened a few times, particularly on Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A." The band, anchored by guitarist Johnny Garcia, may have been fine, but the distinctiveness of the music tended to be a blur when Yearwood pushed the rock button.

Fortunately, it did not happen too often, and the very comfortable, secure and genuine Yearwood knows her way around a batch of really good songs without having to resort to videos.

Lori McKenna opened with a half-hour set of her usual warmth and strength of voice. McKenna's a local girl best known for having the fortune to have Faith Hill cover three of her songs on one album (McKenna sang one of them, the very pretty sounding "Stealing Kisses"). McKenna doesn't have any hits of her own, as she told the enthusiastic crowd, but no matter.

The musical late bloomer (she's close to 40 with 5 kids under her belt) sings with a lot of heart and feels deeply connected to the songs she writes. Playing acoustic guitar, McKenna was capably backed by Mark Erelli, who shined on Dobro. They sounded quite good together cooking up lots of good music.