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Toby Keith brings the hits, Brantley Gilbert rocks out

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands, Texas, September 8, 2012

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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Toby Keith has two greatest hits album to his credit, and if the Oklahoma native's performance of songs for nearly two hours was any indication, a third one may not be far off.

Keith managed to sing just one song, Should Have Been A Cowboy from before the millennium, but it's not a surprise since he's been cranking out hits since those days.

Keith headlined a honky tonk party atmosphere with singer-songwriter sensation Brantley Gilbert and newcomer Thomas Rhett performing as the opening acts.

There's still plenty of country in Keith's show, but the Easy Money Band is now a 10-piece outfit with a 3-man horn section. Keith started off the show with a mini-movie of a video skit about "Clancy's Tavern," the title track of his latest album. It was somewhat entertaining but may have been just a tad too long.

Red Solo Cup, depending on who you ask, is either the best party song in country music or the equivalent of an annoying nursery rhyme for the 21-plus crowd.

Seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens apparently believes the former if his appearance on stage is any indication. On Friday night, the 51-year-old Keith watched the 50-year-old Clemens pitch for the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters in an independent minor league baseball game.

The Pavilion audience roared as Clemens, who spent most of his high school and junior college days in the Houston area, appeared on stage to sing along for Red Solo Cup

Keith did a good job of moving from one hit to another with American Ride, Made In America, Beers Ago, Whiskey Girl and I Wanna Talk About Me.

It's only natural for an entertainer to play songs from the past decade or so, but one wonders whether songs like She Ain't Worth Missin' was worth playing.

Keith played Beer For My Horses, his duet with Willie Nelson, and they played Nelson's part as a recording. He dedicated the song to public safety and military personnel who protect our country.

Gilbert performed a 45-minute set with a set of songs that combine the Georgia native's penchant for combining country, hard rock - and even rap.

Some fans may have been unaware that Gilbert wrote and performed songs made popular by Jason Aldean. But if there was any doubt, Gilbert and his five-piece band cleared it up by doing an excellent job with My Kinda Party and Dirt Road Anthem.

He showcased his hit singles such as You Don't Know Her Like I Do and Country Must Be Countrywide. The latter tune is a good indication of showing that country music has gained popularity nationally, but its statement that every state has a station playing classic country is not true - unless of course, you consider that XM Radio is available in every state.

Gilbert rarely slowed it down, with the only exception being the ballad, My Kinda Crazy. The energy level in The Pavilion was extremely high during Gilbert's finale, Kick It In The Sticks.

Fellow Georgia native Thomas Rhett kicked off the show with a quick, yet impressive 20-minute performance that featured songs like his first hit, Something To Do With My Hands and Beer With Jesus.

Rhett, the son of A-list songwriter Rhett Akins, co-wrote a song for the debut of 2011 American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, but, unfortunately, he didn't perform it on Saturday.