Chesnutt's great voice tackles unmemorable songs while Allan gets serious
Freedman Foum, Anaheim, Cal., Feb. 25, 1999
ANAHEIM, CA - It'd be awfully tempting to call this stop on the Crown Royal Untamed & True Tour 2 a tale of two singers, because when this night's two most anxiously awaited attractions - Mark Chesnutt and Gary Allan - each hit the stage, one could sense some obvious differences in their approaches to presenting country music in a live setting.
Allan, called one of the world's most sexy men by none other than People magazine, was accompanied with the constant sound of women in the audience screaming for him. Opening the show with "Living in a House of Love" and encoring with Del Shannon's "Runaway," Allan filled is set list with strongly melodic and catchy songs, which didn't seem to increase or decrease the scream factor.
Allan, who is really not a what you might call a great singer in the Haggard/Jones tradition, nevertheless scored his victory by choosing above-average songs to cover (such as Merle Haggard's "Just Stay Here and Drink"), and giving his own songs - such as "Don't Leave Her Lonely Too Long"- lively live renditions.
When Allen slowed things down with an acoustic story song about the senseless killing of an old man in his hometown, he sounded not unlike Bruce Springsteen in his glory days. Although he calls his sentiments "not politically cool" within the words of this song, it took just as much guts on Allan's part to insert such a serious song in front of this lusty and party minded audience.
Chesnutt's tale, on the other hand, was somewhat of an opposite to Allan's story. Chesnutt is a great singer in the Haggard/Jones traditions and proved as much early in the set as he skillfully stretched his vocal chords around the sad "Too Cold at Home." But great songs such as this one were few and far between.
There were still a few Chesnutt chestnuts sprinkled throughout, such as "I'll Think of Something," but overall, much of his repertoire simply came off as unmemorable. Such a voice deserves much better.
The show was opened with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it five-song set from the good-looking, yet indistinguishable Keith Harling, and an only slightly longer eight song visit from Chely Wright, who provided the night's lone female presence. Both performed admirably, albeit with limited stage time.