FORT WORTH, Texas -- Within the last few years, The Band Perry has evolved from a promising new band into one of the most entertaining groups on the current country scene. That much was clear after an 80-minute headlining set at Billy Bob's Texas on Friday night (May 3).
Because they tend to jump, bend and spin simultaneously -- and because they offer about a dozen well-placed shout-outs to the good people of Texas -- some fans may find their show too choreographed and their stage banter slightly scripted. We've all heard that familiar refrain about leaving our troubles at the door.
However, because I enjoyed the set overall, I would lean toward calling it polished and well-rehearsed. I guess the difference lies in how much sincerity they can convey, and they do have that in spades. When Kimberly Perry announced she wanted everyone in the audience to be part of their family, you get the feeling she genuinely cherishes a sense of togetherness.
The band's feisty single "Done" might seem like a weird way to launch the set list when you consider the song's title and theme, but it served as a bright and feisty introduction. While most singers would blush at the number of up-tempo songs that led the set, Kimberly Perry's vocals never flagged. She possesses one of the most confident voices in country music. And she works the stage like a charismatic rock star, delivering every tune like it's an encore.
Part of her appeal is the free spirit she illustrates in songs like "Independence" and "I'm a Keeper." Plus, she has that natural dynamic with her brothers, who are talented musicians in their own right. Neil Perry is handy with the electric mandolin and sings their Queen cover with conviction. And while Reid Perry doesn't say much beyond introducing the other musicians, his nimble bass playing more than makes up for it.
Kimberly Perry is the obvious spokesperson though. She told the crowd the band chose the title of Pioneer for their new album because it's the most modern word there is. She also emphasized that the crowd members are pioneers, too, because they can do anything they want to with the future. A more jaded listener might roll their eyes, but there were a lot of screams when she gave the example of people who are just getting out of school. Presumably these were the same voices singing along passionately to "If I Die Young."
Some lyrics verge on poetry, like "Postcard From Paris," yet they don't shy away from witty writing either. ("I never liked the taste of crow/But, baby, I ate it" from "You Lie" comes to mind.) Meanwhile, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" from Pioneer is one of their catchiest melodies yet. And if you're looking for a song for Mother's Day, try "Mother Like Mine."
Although their list of hits is relatively short, "Hip to My Heart" and "All Your Life" appear to have staying power with the fans. They also set aside a reasonable amount of time for covers -- just a few lines from Tom Petty, the Lumineers, Whitney Houston, Fun. and "Amazing Grace."
Of course, musical diversity defines the playlists for the college-age fans as well as artists of that generation. It's also eye-opening to walk into Billy Bob's Texas, which bills itself as the world's largest honky-tonk, and find so many people under 30 in the crowd. If you had imagined a bunch of grizzled Texans or older line-dancers inside, you'd be way off. When people talk about how country music is thriving because of its youth appeal, this is what they're talking about.
Whether or not The Band Perry will be considered a pioneer from this era of country music remains to be seen. It should be interesting to watch the story unfold. In the meantime, leave your troubles at the door, join the family and go catch a show.