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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Clint Black gives it all

Reliant Astrodome, Houston, TX, Feb. 28, 2002

By Brian Wahlert

HOUSTON - This year's Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a sentimental one for many longtime Rodeo-goers. It marks the last time that the Rodeo will be staged at the Reliant Astrodome, its home since 1966.

Of course, the final Rodeo at the venue would not be complete without a performance by Clint Black. He started his solo career in Houston with a booking in 1981 that led to 8 years playing local clubs, culminating in the release of his first single in 1989, "A Better Man," which rocketed to the top of the charts. He even met Lisa Hartman backstage after a show at The Summit (now the Compaq Center) in 1990 and married her in late 1991 on his farm outside Houston.

Given his strong ties to Houston, it's not surprising that Black missed only one Rodeo between 1990 and 2000. After a year off, Black was to perform his 11th Rodeo in 2002.

As if his success rising out of the Houston club scene wasn't endearing enough to Houston fans, Black is also a bona fide cowboy. He proves it every year with his entry and exit on the dome's floor. Where most stars enter in a convertible or truck, Black rides out on a horse.

When he reached the stage before 46,157 fans and the horse was led away to relax, Black pulled out his harmonica. After a long solo, Black announced he was going to pay tribute to "a fellow Texan" and launched into "Are You Sure Waylon Done It This Way," his rework of a Waylon Jennings song. Remembering Jennings has been a common theme of this year's Rodeo with stars as diverse as Willie Nelson and ZZ Top dedicating songs to him.

When he started playing his own songs, it was "State of Mind" that kicked it off. With its beautiful fiddle and message about the positive effect of music, it was the perfect opening to the set. A bit of Western swing came next in "Straight From the Factory."

After this traditional country song came several measures of a big drumbeat, culminating in the immediately recognizable electric guitar line that opens "Killin' Time," Black's second hit song. Then he went all the way back to "Better Man," the number-one hit that jumpstarted his career.

Throughout the show, Black was in great voice, and even the poor acoustics couldn't negate the outstanding work of the musicians behind him, particularly Black's songwriting and electric guitar partner of 15 years, Hayden Nicholas.

Like most Rodeo performers, Black stuck to a "greatest hits" theme, rather than playing many new songs. In fact, the only new song was the upcoming single off Black's "Greatest Hits 2" album, a rocking tune called "Money or Love."

Other than that, it was mostly traditional-sounding country songs like "One More Payment" and "Been There," with a few harder driving numbers, like "We Tell Ourselves" and "Nothin' but the Taillights," sprinkled in.

In Texas country concerts, a highlight is always the requisite Texas song, and Black got the crowd fired up for his by having them shout Texas at the top of their lungs three times. When he was satisfied with the volume, he launched into "I'll Take Texas," a simple song about his love for his home state. "There's no reason I should go when I really want to stay. There's no place that I know I'd go to anyway. If you ask me, I'll take Texas any day," he sang, to great applause.

Throughout most of the show, the co-star, Lisa Hartman-Black, was nowhere to be found. But towards the end, Black ratcheted the pace down a few notches for "Easy for Me to Say." As Black began singing, a spotlight shone on the corner of the arena, where four white horses were pulling a white carriage carrying Hartman-Black. When she reached the stage, she and Black held hands and sang to each other for the rest of the song. They finished it off with a kiss.

Then they performed their other duet, "When I Say I Do." Even from hundreds of feet away, the couple seemed very devoted to each other. Hartman-Black is nowhere near the singer or performer that her husband is, and she only sang two songs, but including her on the billing was a sweet gesture.

Black gave the fans everything they had hoped to see - an outstanding performance of his greatest hits, some tender moments with his wife, a chance to see him up close and a true cowboy exit on his horse. Hopefully he'll be back to christen Reliant Stadium with his 12th Rodeo appearance next year.