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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Pam Tillis takes awhile to get going

Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos, Cal., Nov. 30, 1999

By Dan MacIntosh

CERRITOS, CA - The stage for Pam Tillis' show at the ornate concert hall was decorated with a smattering of poinsettias and lava lamps, lending itself to the pre-Christmas spirit, sort of.

For about the first half, Tillis, taking a break from preparing to record her seventh full-length album to play a few West Cost concert dates, appeared to be about as disorganized as the mish-mashed stage decorations. Even though this opening section of the concert was filled with big hits like "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial" and "Shake the Sugar Tree," Tillis gave every indication of being preoccupied and disconnected from her own show.

It wasn't until she got through an ill-advised medley - which included "Let That Pony Run" and "Deep Down" - that Tillis began to appear more relaxed and together.

Maybe this newfound relaxation came from Tillis' opportunity to break away from performing her expected hits, as she dug into a few of her dad's hits, a tune from her Broadway musical debut, "Smokey Joe's Cafˇ" and a brand new song called "Five Years," which she read from a lyric sheet taped to the stage floor.

When she then returned back to singing some more of her hits, she did so with a new confidence and enthusiasm. She took her time introducing "All the Good Ones Are Gone" as a song that some of her fans have criticized for being too sad and injected "I Said a Prayer" with more than enough zest and life.

All the while, Tillis' six-piece band provided unobtrusive, yet competent backing. Though not what you'd call an overly country group, this group found a comfortable balance between light country and soft rock.

By the time she got to her encore, Tillis had complete control of the audience. She closed with a full-bodied jazzy take on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (justifying the poinsettias?) and a nearly bluegrass version of The Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," which featured a banjo as its primary accompaniment, really sounding great, by the way.

Tillis could have very easily let her emotions get the best of her and turn this night into a by-the-numbers performance. Instead, she persisted until true inspiration finally had the last word, which was well worth the wait.