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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Rimes, Gilman put on strong shows

Houston Astrodome, Houston, March 4, 2001

By Brian Wahlert

HOUSTON - The final night of Rodeo Houston resulted in two of country's youngest stars - Billy Gilman and LeAnn Rimes - ruling the stage.

Gilman opened, taking the stage by himself, with no band to back him up during his 30-minute set. The youngster could easily have been intimidated by the situation, standing alone on a large stage, separated from the audience by a dirt rodeo arena big enough to hold two football fields.

Gilman was amazingly poised as he sang his songs, however, backed only by a recorded instrumental track. He got the crowd cheering and clapping along to almost every song, and the squeals of young female fans were practically constant. He strutted and danced around the stage like a country star who had been playing arenas for many years.

Gilman is a surprisingly good singer, too. He has a voice that is always expressive and at turns, even powerful. His most winning effort was his second song, "I Think She Likes Me." It's a cute, upbeat song that rides a fine line - it's mature enough to have some meaning and yet not so mature that it comes across as fake when sung by someone so young. He smiled throughout the song and even put a little growl into it at one point.

His big hits thus far have been ballads, however. "Oklahoma" is a pretty story song about a boy raised by foster parents who finally gets to meet his real dad. "One Voice" is a grandiose vision song about everything that's wrong with the world, as seen through a child's eyes. Gilman gave convincing performances of both.

Rimes, wearing a tie-dyed olive green tank top, a denim knee-length skirt, and bare feet with no leather pants this time around, displayed singing that was just as powerful as usual.

In fact, every time she performs at the rodeo, she only seems to get better. Her voice seems slightly stronger and more powerful each time out.

Rimes opened with "Big Deal," and then she belted out "One Way Ticket," an anthem for starting over and finding oneself.

Early in the show, Rimes explained that she had been in the hospital for most of the day with a leg injury. The doctor "gave me a shot here," she said, pointing. "And a shot here. And my doctor said I shouldn't be on the stage tonight. But she had tickets, so she gave me another shot and said, 'There you go!'" The leg injury didn't seem to hamper her singing at all.

One of the highlights was "But I Do Love You," from the recent movie "Coyote Ugly." Unlike some of Rimes' other material, this song isn't particularly challenging to sing. It just has a really cool groove to it. The band got into it, and the audience did, too.

But she never sounded better than on the closing song, "Amazing Grace." She sang most of the song a cappella before the band joined in and turned it into a gospel rave-up.

The only bad misstep was "Can't Fight the Moonlight." The dance beat of this song made it sound like something Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears might sing. Rimes should stick to the mixture of hard-core country and country pop that has been the basis for her success.

All in all, though, the 58,071 people who were lucky enough to attend this performance were not disappointed.