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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Tritt, short and loud, doesn't do proud in Houston, Trevino wins over crowd

Houston Astrodome, February 1996

By Brian Wahlert

HOUSTON - A double dose of country music including a local-boy-done-good whose star is on the rise and an established country superstar whose popularity has hit a plateau in the past year highlighted the Houston Livestock and Rodeo show.

And on this afternoon, at least, the local boy - Rick Trevino - appeared to outshine the superstar - Travis Tritt- before 45,000 at the Houston Astrodome.

Trevino was chauffeurred into the arena of the Astrodome in a white convertible to the tune of "Bobbie Ann Mason." The announcer introduced him as a Houston, Texas, native as he took the stage, so naturally, the audience was behind him right from the start. As it turned out, he deserved the strong reaction that he received.

After the band finished its instrumental preview of "Bobbie Ann Mason," it launched into "Honky Tonk Crowd," and Trevino gave the song such an energetic treatment that the crowd, separated from the stage by a four-acre arena, fed on his energy as many sang along.

By the time Trevino sang the line, "I'm in the palm of your hand," in "Just Enough Rope," the audience was in his hand and would stay there for the rest of the show. During that song Trevino did something extraordinary, something that audiences don't get to see very often from more complacent superstars. He stepped down off the stage, walked all the way to the crowd, and sang a verse while walking along the edge of the stands. Back on the stage, when he broke into the Spanish version of the song, the crowd went wild again.

Appearing to have a great time in "the biggest honky-tonk we've ever played," Trevino cooled things down as he played piano on "She Can't Say I Didn't Cry." After the audience applauded at the end, Trevino gave a gorgeous piano-and-strings reprise in Spanish.

The audience really got a kick out of his version of "Great Balls of Fire," while another winner was the fun "Poor, Broke, Mixed-Up Mess of a Heart." Of course, he closed with the real version of "Bobbie Ann Mason" and received a huge round of applause from the hometown crowd.

After a pretty lame comedy interlude from Etta May, Tritt rode to the stage in the convertible and opened with "Put Some Drive in Your Country." For the first line or two, his microphone wasn't turned on, but after that his vocals were turned up far too loud. In fact, throughout the concert, everything was too loud. It's difficult to enjoy a concert when the electric guitar is loud enough to elicit feedback, and the fiddle sounds screechy.

Some of Tritt's old work, such as the second song, "I'm Gonna Be Somebody," is still oustanding, however. That story of the singer's rise to "number one on the stage and radio" had to touch a chord with all of the aspiring country singers in the crowd and more generally, anyone with a dream to rise above his surroundings. Tritt closed the song with a little smile, perhaps thinking how far he's come in the past few years.

Unfortunately, the rest of the show was pretty much downhill from there. Recently, Tritt has worked hard to live up to his outlaw image, and perhaps as a result, he has never been able to duplicate the quality of his first two albums.

Instead of singing a power ballad like "Tell Me I Was Dreaming" at the top of his lungs with an electric guitar blaring in the background, why can't he sit down on a stool and perform an acoustic version of "Anymore"? Instead of the pointless drinking song "Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof," why doesn't he perform his Marty Stuart duet, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'"?

Most of the audience recognized Tritt's classic kiss-off song, "Here's a Quarter," right from the first chord, producing the biggest crowd response. Soon, however, many left, preferring the livestock show and carnival to Tritt's concert. And who could blame them?

The concert was barely half an hour long, yet by the end of the final song, "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," which was just as loud and irritating as the opener, the crowd was reduced to perhaps 10,000.

Maybe the problem was that it was too early in the day, or maybe it was that Tritt's backup band didn't perform very well. Either way, though, Tritt would do much better to live on his past and include such gorgeous classics as "Drift Off to Dream" and "Help Me Hold On," rather than trying to win audiences with his sub-par present.