GLEN ALLEN, Va. — Trace Adkins boosted his visibility with a star turn on Celebrity Apprentice earlier this year, but it was still slightly strange to see the country singer doing his thing in the middle of an office park in suburban Richmond, Va., on Thursday night (July 24). The outdoor show, part of a concert series at the Innsbrook Corporate Office Park, brought out several thousand people to a small, rocky field, surrounded by trees in the background and a big, sleek corporate office in the front. It was kind of like a summer office party, but with some bonus badonkadonk.
True, Adkins has a knack for fitting in just about anywhere, although as tall as he is, he’s bound to stand out. Plus, the guy can dance, even if his feet don’t really go anywhere. Wearing a gray T-shirt and a black cowboy hat, he kicked off the night with “I Got My Game On” and “Swing” and got the crowd riled up with “Songs About Me.” Then he serenaded the longtime fans with many of his earliest hits, like “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Every Light in the House” and “I Left Something Turned On at Home.” He received a very strong response to “Arlington,” which was written about Arlington National Cemetery that’s just up the road about 100 miles.
He also took the opportunity to preview a new album that he expects to release in November. Its first single, a fervent plea called “Muddy Water,” is going to radio next week, he said. Adkins reminisced with the working-class crowd about starting out singing bass in a gospel quartet and remained until, he said, “I murdered my innocence and proceeded to something else.” And in true Trace Adkins fashion, he followed up with “She’s Sweet,” a bad-boy song about a sexy woman. It’s not as raunchy as some of the others, but signature hits like “Chrome,” “Rough and Ready” and “Ladies Love Country Boys” always get a big rise out of the crowd. Still, he’s convincing on the tender songs too, like “I Wanna Feel Something” and “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
I didn’t know I was supposed to bring a lawn chair, so I was back by the fences all night. The parking lot, which had an inordinate amount of motorcycles, was right behind me. It was too crowded for me to get up close anyway. Fortunately, I could still discern every lyric, and the seven-man band sounded good, too, even in the distance. However, Adkins’ speaking voice is so low that you can’t always catch his banter. But here are a few morsels:
• Early in the show, Adkins spotted a row of people on a balcony of the corporate office and jokingly referred to them, in front of the whole crowd, as “tightwads who didn’t buy a ticket.” Of course, everybody turned to see. Then he cracked, “Somebody go over there and get those dudes’ money.”
• Mentioning his second Greatest Hits album, which he released last December, he said he didn’t originally think he had enough hits at the time for a second volume … and that he turned out to be right. “The record label wanting to make money at Christmas, that’s all that was,” he said.
• Announcing he’s about to go on another USO trip to the Middle East, he spoke on behalf of the troops by telling the crowd, “If you say you support ’em, actually do it. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth.”
• And at the end of the night, he said, “Take care of yourself. I mean that. Take care of yourself — because, sure as hell, nobody else is gonna do it.”
Well, all righty. If nothing else, he’s never boring. I know this isn’t rare in country music, but it’s always refreshing to see an artist reach down from the stage to shake hands and greet his fans during the show. Since it was general admission, the people in the front row must have gotten there super early, and they definitely got what they came for.
Gospel group Point of Grace opened the show with a brief set, singing songs about being wives and mothers, savoring the moment and making wishes. Along with a harmonious rendition of Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road,” they dedicated a song to their fathers, and of course, Our Father. But not, alas, hot mamas.