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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Trisha Yearwood escapes the straitjacket

The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, Sept. 7, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

LOS ANGELES - The last time Trisha Yearwood came through town, she wore such tight jeans she could hardly bend over to shake hands with fans at the edge of the stage. This year, she had on a long black dress with a little elasticity in it, which allowed her to flex herself anyway she pleased. And just like her loose fitting outfit, Yearwood never let performance expectations become her straitjacket, as she played fast and loose with concert traditions.

The dividing line between the opening act and the headliner was one of the first imaginary walls to fall, as opener Kim Richey spent plenty of time trading vocals and witty lines with Yearwood, including a version of "Believe Me Baby (I Lied)," which Richey co-wrote.

Yearwood reminded the audience that she is, first and foremost a singer, which gave her good reason to thank songwriters like Richey for their great songs over the years. Hits like "The Song Remembers When" and "Walkaway Joe" are proof positive of Yearwood's ear for fine songs, both of which she sang this night.

She also interacted with her backup singers (Bob Bailey, Kim Fleming and Vicki Hampton), whom she borrowed from Wynonna. She was clearly in awe of these gospel-influenced talents; so much so, in fact, that this respect almost grounded her show to a grinding halt.

This slowdown came about when she was singing the gospel-y "You Don't Have To Move That Mountain," which called for a show-stopping vocal fireworks ending. But when each of her singers took solo turns, Yearwood was too bashful to match her voice against theirs. After a few long nervous pauses, Yearwood eventually took her turn. Maybe she should have let them have the last word.

Yearwood has nothing to be ashamed about in the singing department; her Linda Ronstadt-esque power-singing is balanced nicely with her conversational approach to song interpretation. When she sings songs like "She's In Love With The Boy," for example, she does it with plenty of spunk. And when she covered Gladys Knight & The Pips' "Midnight Train To Georgia," she easily matched the original's gritty soul.

She closed the show, predictably, with "How Do I Live," which - though a massive hit for the singer - isn't representative of the depth found in the rest of her repertoire. Much better, by far, were her encores of Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" and Linda Ronstadt's "Try Me Again," which closed the night with a truer picture of what Yearwood is all about.

Kim Richey bravely opened the concert with just her acoustic guitar and her quick wit. When she got to a brand new song in the set, called something like "Tryin' To Break You Down," she told the audience this is a new song, before adding that - to those not already familiar with her work - all these songs were probably new songs.

But new songs or not, Richey's honest approach to the ups and downs of relationships is a breath of fresh air in today's affluence of love-y dove-y bland platitudes.