The Singer’s Diary

At a time when Nashville is being criticized for not showing its true country roots and for being “too pop,” leave it to singing sensation Reba McEntire to bring her roots to the surface and brag about them.

Reba’s latest venture includes a show entitled The Singer’s Diary, which takes the audience on a journey through the personal side of her career — from her rodeo days in Oklahoma to her life with husband/manager Narvel Blackstock. Her show, currently in the middle of a 14-city tour, made a thunderous stop in St. Louis, Mo., Sunday night, Nov. 7, to the welcome of a packed house at St. Louis’ famed Fox Theatre.

Going into a performance such as this, skepticism is a true reality. This is something unlike anything to ever come out of Nashville. And Reba, although with several television and film roles under her belt, has never really been known for her acting strength. But credit must be given to the red-headed okie for this one. This journey is one that begins with heart and honesty and finishes with some of the best singing around.

The show begins the same way Reba was discovered by Red Steagall in 1974 — with her singing the national anthem. Joined by some of the best musicians and dancers around, along with video and photos from her childhood, the show continues with re-enactments of her first recording session, life with her first husband Charlie Battles, the joy of her new life with Narvel and the birth of her greatest passion, son Shelby.

The superstar commanded the audience’s biggest response of the night with a touching tribute to her seven band members and tour manager who were killed in a plane crash in 1991. After eight years the pain was still very real in her voice as she sang “If I Had Only Known,” a song dedicated to her “crazy eight” on her For My Broken Heart album.

Those who came expecting a concert, however, certainly did not go home disappointed. After her classy, yet heart-wrenching tribute to her fallen friends, Reba jumped, “literally,” into a set of some of her biggest hits, including “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” “Take It Back,” “Is There Life Out There” and “Does He Love You.” She received a standing ovation for her somewhat risque performance of “Fancy” and touched the hearts of several audience members as images of such couples as Rhett and Scarlett, Loretta and Mooney Lynn, Paul and Linda McCartney, and John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette flashed on a giant screen while she sang “Forever Love.”

A true Reba fan may come away slightly disappointed with the obvious omittance of the song many consider to be her signature song, “Whoever’s In New England,” and the fact that many songs performed throughout the portrayal of her career were not placed in true chronological order — but it would be hard for them to walk away without wearing a smile. What was probably most refreshing about her performance was the lack of focus on her awards and professional accomplishments, which were replaced with personal moments and emotions not readily shared with fans.

Overall, this is one performance not to be missed by country music fans and aspiring artists alike. It was funny, exciting, touching and inspiring all at once. It is a show that leaves you with the feeling that no matter how you start out in life, if you set your mind to it and work hard, you can certainly achieve anything.