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For Big & Rich, talent matters

Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, Cal., April 14, 2005

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Other recent concert reviews
Big & Rich's "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" hit is only the tip of this fine new duo's iceberg, so to speak. That's because this musical pair reveals extra layers of depth and variety in the concert setting. Its "Horse" song might give you the initial impression that Big & Rich (Kenny Alphin and John Rich) are nothing more than a novelty act, with a catchy chart song as proof.

But then, you'd be wrong, too.

When he's not wearing his drum major black hat, John Rich can sure sink his teeth into a little hardcore country singing. For instance, the song "Kick My Ass" brought to mind that Flying Burrito Brothers outsider perspective. There was also a distinct feeling of empathy expressed through "Holy Water." And with "Love Train," B&R made it clear that country people, and country music in particular, shouldn't be so entrenched in uptight, self-centered, insular politics and attitudes.

The group upped its inclusive ante when Cowboy Troy was brought onstage to perform a little of his unique hick-hop with "I Play Chicken with the Train." Troy is a tall, black cowboy figure, which kills multiple musical and cultural stereotypes by his very existence alone.

This crowd, which stood throughout the whole show, was enthusiastic and welcoming of tonight's special guest. It all seemed right in place as a part of B&R's traveling variety show.

As one of its encores, Big & Rich performed a rearranged version of Madonna's "Like a Virgin." Obviously, there is seemingly no style or song not ripe for Big & Rich's taking. This partying audience sang right along.

This same scene may not likely be repeated at a bar in, say, West Texas. But here this evening - just south of Los Angeles, and north of San Diego - fans voraciously ate it all up - just like concert virgins.

Tonight, Big & Rich showed that it's the size and wealth of the talent, rather than physical attributes and cash, that matter most of all.