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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Brooks & Dunn get wild out west

Blockbuster Pavilion, Devorce, Cal., May 4, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

DEVORE, CA - Even though Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus and Wild West Show arrived in San Bernardino an hour later than scheduled, the full house at this outdoor theater didn't appear to mind at all. Once Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn blasted into their long stream of hits, this crowd got everything it was waiting for and more.

It matters not what name B & D call their tours, since this duo has never exhibited any skills for creating theme albums. Although they opened with the weakly patriotic "Only In America" from their new "Steers & Stripes disc to a stage decorated with a 4th of July's worth of stars and stripes, these sentiments about the American dream were about as deeply expressed as an American made car commercial. Lot's of flag waving, but little else.

What ultimately raised this performance above being just one more city name on the back of a tour tee-shirt came in the form of two song introductions: One from Dunn, the other from Brooks.

When the rail thin and less-talkative Dunn introduced "Husbands and Wives" by reflecting upon his own marital foibles, it gave this thoughtful ballad a large dose of personal perspective.

Next Brooks spoke of his friend, the recently deceased NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, before singing the racing legend's favorite Brooks and Dunn song, "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone."

Within these two brief moments during their acoustic set, Brooks & Dunn momentarily opened a window into their own hearts, which is one of the most endearing and memorable elements of any concert experience.

Of course, the hits were also there, as they performed "Maria" and "Honky Tonk Truth" and many, many more, as a TV ad might say.

The other notable highlight was a visual one. It came with the singing of "Neon Moon," where, when the house lights went dark, all that could be seen was a neon crescent embedded into Dunn's electric guitar. After the lights went up, the big screens carried beautiful bold photos of the moon. It was simply the perfect visual setting for this song.

Toby Keith preceded Brooks and Dunn, and received wild applause from the crowd. One suspects this reaction was due to excitement over hits like "How Do You Like Me Now," rather than for his actual performance, since this man's stage presence was nearly non-existent.

Keith stood statue-still and made no significant contact with his adoring crowd. The two dancers that flanked him on either side were much more eye-catching, since they also moved and made facial expressions. Also, when he sang ballads, like "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This," he over-sang them to the point of annoyance. In many respects he was both an eye and ear sore.

Montgomery Gentry, with their generic country-rock, wasn't anything special. But they should be given special props for daring to perform four new songs from their "Carrying On" album in a short 45-minute set.

Keith Urban could have titled his set "Where The Blacktop Ends, And Where The Programmed Drums And Guitar Pyrotechnics Begin," since his set began with unnecessary drum and programming on his single "Where The Blacktop Ends," and ended with the guitar-slinger quoting Deep Purple and Led Zep on a rocked-out version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia."

Surprisingly, Cledus T. Judd proved to be the perfect concert MC. In small doses, his parodies of Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney and Keith were nice moments of comic relief between acts.