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Brooks & Dunn rock Rodeo in short set

Reliant Stadium, Houston, March 21, 2009

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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Brooks & Dunn had a tough act to follow Saturday night at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo because 70,000 fans were already on hand to cheer on hometown hero, Douglas Duncan, as he won the Super Series Bull Riding championship. Like all of the other post-rodeo performances, Brooks & Dunn's set only lasted for an hour - hardly enough time to squeeze most of the hits from their nearly two decades on the country charts.

Still, country music's most successful duo managed to pack quite a bit of energy and high-octane music into that abridged set. Brooks & Dunn and their eight-piece band kicked things off appropriately enough with Cowboy Town, the title track of their latest album.

And then Kix Brooks had an impressive harmonica intro to Can't Take The Honky-Tonk Out Of The Girl. Ronnie Dunn said that Brooks had laryngitis Saturday night, but he still sang and played guitar. Brooks, however, did not perform any songs on lead vocals, such as the ballad You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone.

But there was room for several other ballads from B&D, such as their classic Neon Moon, and the more recent, country/gospel song I Believe.

This was a rodeo though, and there wasn't too much room for crying in your beer or reflection on painful memories. It was party time. That's why B&D focused lots of its attention on uptempo songs like the Rhett Akins-penned Put A Girl In It, Play Something Country and Hillbilly Deluxe - the latter two complete with sound effects. Dunn preceded Cowgirls Don't Cry - the duo's most recent hit - by telling a story about his teenage daughter wanting a horse. The storytelling was a bit much - especially in an already-shortened set. But he pandered to the Lone Star audience by getting in the line, "any horse worth its oats is probably going to come from Texas." Right, Ronnie. And there are no good thoroughbreds from Kentucky or Tennessee?

A highlight was Only In America, a patriotic song with the unifying message that we should be grateful to live in the U.S. Towards the end of the song, four U.S. Marines stepped on to the rodeo floor to huge applause from the sold-out crowd. Brooks & Dunn couldn't leave the stage without singing Boot Scootin' Boogie, but this version sounded more like a dance mix of the original version.