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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Brooks & Dunn: the set is more memorable than the music

The Pond, Anaheim, Cal., Sept. 10, 2000

By Dan MacIntosh

ANAHEIM, CA - Surrounded by stage décor worthy of an epic Spinal Tap tour stop, Brooks & Dunn entered to the sounds of adoring fans and the site of raised tube tops.

This eyesoreŠerŠstage revolved around a centerpiece in the form of an 18-wheel truck cab, equipped with tall metal pipes that intermittently emitted giant puffs of steam. Mounted atop each side of the stage were two metallic bulls skeleton heads, with eyes that blazed blue at appropriately passionate moments. Up above the middle of the stage was what can only be described as a mirror bull, which gave the whole ensemble a kind of Saturday Night Urban Fever feel.

But even this tacky b-movie set of a stage was more memorable than Brooks & Dunn's largely forgettable music. Their truck cab setting is an appropriate analogy for what these two average singers and songwriters do, which is to mechanically roll out hit songs like so many added miles on a speedometer.

Opening with "Honky Tonk Truth," Brooks (the whiny sounding one) and Dunn (the better looking and sounding one) gave this crowd all the generic hits they could ever want. They closed with "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)" which they turned into a sing-along as a giant butt-ugly blow-up woman in a halter top swayed back and forth behind the singers. Hopefully, this rocked somebody's world.

Lonestar preceded Brooks & Dunn and only served to remind any stray enlightened ones that "Lone Star" is a thought-provoking John Sayles film, but Lonestar (the band) is nothing more than the group Chicago, with cowboy boots.

They also stuck to the hits, and there were many of 'em, like "What About Now" and "Amazed." But no, they didn't leave room for "25 or 6 to 4."

Andy Griggs was the designated opener and revealed a rougher edged side with his live performance. At his best, he even showed a Jack Ingram-like everyman charm. He closed with an abbreviated run through of Rodney Crowell's "Ain't Livin' Long Like This," and one suspects that the more he can learn from Crowell's example, the better off he'll be.

The next time this truck passes my way on the highway, though, I'm keeping my thumb in my pocket.