EVANSVILLE, Ind. — After months of chasing state highways into small cities across America, Brooks & Dunn concluded its Red Dirt Road tour on Sunday night (April 26) in Evansville, Ind.
Although the duo scaled back its massive Neon Circus & Wild West show staging to accommodate the smaller venues, there was still room for the two giant inflatable galloping gals during “Rock My World Little Country Girl.” Indeed, leaving the buxom balloons behind would be as unthinkable as not playing “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” or “My Maria.”
Brooks & Dunn wisely hit the back roads for most of early 2004 while Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, George Strait and Shania Twain entertain the major markets. While the Evansville show may have been in a smaller venue — Kix Brooks estimated 10,000 people in the audience — it was no less entertaining.
The stage backdrop evoked a somewhat rural feel, with video screens embedded in what looked like wooden billboards and telephone poles stretched into the sunset. Oversized, state-shaped signs decorated both sides of the stage, with Indiana delivered by three young ladies a few songs into the show.
As for the music, there’s not much different than other Brooks & Dunn tours: Brooks’ audience participation, Ronnie Dunn’s effortless vocals, a strong backing band — and hit after hit after hit from 1991′s “Brand New Man” to the current “That’s What She Gets for Loving Me.” (“Neon Moon” is arguably the most enduring. It isn’t hard to imagine a new country artist “rediscovering” this in about 10 years.) Seems like a second Greatest Hits volume should be due any day now.
Joe Nichols held the middle slot, playing around 50 minutes. Maybe it was the relief of the last show of the tour, but he appeared to ditch the script and sing whatever he wanted to. With a gold album and a new project coming in June, there’s really no other way to describe the inclusion of “Big City,” “I Think I’ll Just Sit Here and Drink,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Women I’ve Never Had,” “Whiskey Bent and Hellbound,” “Family Tradition,” the Dukes of Hazzard theme and “You Never Even Call Me by My Name.” If I had known this was the set list, I would have shown up drunk.
To be fair, Nichols did offer his hits, such as “The Impossible,” “She Only Smokes When She Drinks” and finally “Brokenheartsville.” The crowd also appreciated the why-isn’t-God-in-school-anymore sentiments of his newest single, “If Nobody Believed in You.” He also managed to keep his cool when his microphone gave out. With this being the last night of the tour, he told the crowd he suspected sabotage.
“They may mess with out sound, but they didn’t know we were going to play for three hours tonight,” he joked. More than likely, though, it was simply a dead battery. When it comes to practical jokes, Brooks & Dunn are far more inventive than relying on technical glitches.
All in all, it’s refreshing to see a mid-level act in a mid-sized venue, such as Roberts Stadium in Evansville. Fans in the uppermost sections of larger venues are often forced to peer through binoculars for somebody whose music isn’t all that familiar. Josh Turner benefited from such intimacy in Evansville. He’s a stand-and-deliver performer with a vocal style reminiscent of a young Randy Travis. With only 20 minutes on the stage, he started with one train song (remember the first line of “Folsom Prison Blues”?) and concluded with another (his hit “Long Black Train,” of course.)
After some scattered festival dates this summer, Brooks & Dunn will return to the major markets with the Red Dirt RoadHouse tour in August, with openers Gretchen Wilson and Montgomery Gentry.
BROOKS & DUNN
“You Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl”
“Ain’t Nothin’ Bout You”
“Brand New Man”
“She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind”
“Feels Good Don’t It”
“Mama Don’t Get Dressed Up for Nothing”
“How Long Gone”
“You’re Gonna Miss Me”
“My Heart Is Lost to You”
“Hard Workin’ Man”
“That’s What She Gets for Loving Me”
“Red Dirt Road”
“Boot Scootin’ Boogie”
“Rock My World”
“Only in America”
“Everything’s a Thing”
“Cool to Be a Fool”
“I Think I’ll Just Sit Here and Drink”
“If Nobody Believed in You”
“Honky Tonk Women”
“She Only Smokes When She Drinks”
“Medley: Women I’ve Never Had/Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound/Family
“Tradition”/”Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)”/”You Never Even Call Me by My Name”
“Folsom Prison Blues”
“In My Dreams”
“What It Ain’t”
“Long Black Train”