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Brooks & Dunn Memory Town

Review: Sept. 25, 2004
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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Wilson primes fans for B&D


Opening for Brooks & Dunn was a snap for country newbie GretchenWilson.


WHEN: Thursday night

WHERE: Puyallup Fair

She's not only country's newest star, she's also a rock star in terms of the energy and excitement she brings to a performance. And she's got a big "Hey, y'all" voice that commands attention.

Wearing a Jack Daniels tank top, tight, faded jeans and black boots, the feisty country singer kicked off her 45-minute set with "Pocahontas Proud," an ode to her hometown of Pocahontas, Ill., where "everybody thought I was one of the boys."

Wilson is a trailer park queen proud of her rural roots. The songs "Redneck Woman" and "Here for the Party," the title song of her debut album, have soared on the national charts. The album made its debut at No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart in a year that has seen few new female country stars.

If there was any doubt Brooks & Dunn would sell out the Puyallup Fair grandstand Thursday night, Wilson's presence on the bill assured a capacity crowd of foot-stompin' fans. They were definitely there for the party.

Wilson is no Faith Hill. She's gritty and down-to-earth, proclaiming, "Well, I ain't never been the Barbie-doll type," in "Redneck Woman." She was once regarded as "not pretty enough" for a big Nashville career, but her fans beg to differ. With her long brown hair falling down around her bare shoulders, Wilson was sexy and sassy in her Puyallup Fair debut.

Yet, Wilson doesn't overplay the country star-from-across-the-tracks role. In her own way, she's a polished performer who knows how to put on a satisfying show.

Her name was plastered across a backdrop with what looked like giant self-adhesive letters, like those on mailboxes. Two large video screens offered closeups of her singing and guitar playing. An experienced six-piece band backed her on a selection of powerful ballads and rough-and-tumble honky-tonk tunes from her album. She also offered a couple of new songs, including a catchy tune dedicated to "little girls who grow up too fast," just like herself.

She also offered a retort to the Beach Boys classic, "California Girls," in a new song that asked, "Aren't you glad we ain't all (from California)?"

"The Bed," a melancholy song from the album featuring country duo Big & Rich, offered a lament to couples who share a bed, but have grown so far apart. Wilson closed with a raucous, foot-stomping "Here for the Party," bringing the crowd to its feet.

Brooks & Dunn didn't disappoint, either. The superduo packed a hockey-arena-size show into the Puyallup grandstand, raising the excitement level for concertgoers already riled up by Wilson's performance. They brought a truckload of country hits and ended its show with a patriotic sendoff.

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn opened their boisterous show with "You Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl," from the current album "Red Dirt Road," setting the tone for a 90-minute set featuring nearly 20 songs. Four video screens captured the action on a stage decorated with old-fashioned state highway signs. When two curvy blondes in cowboy hats trotted out with a Washington state sign, the wisecracking Dunn introduced them as "a couple of girls from the First Baptist Church."

The set list ranged from thunderous anthems ("Hard Workin' Man," "My Maria") to dreamy power ballads ("Neon Moon"). When concertgoers began stomping their feet, it sounded as though a freight train was rumbling through the grandstand.

The duo saved its biggest hits for last, offering a one-two punch of "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)." The latter featured two giant, inflatable cowgirls on bucking saddles.

The finale included a Jimi Hendrix-style guitar version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," followed by videos of servicemen overseas and a flag-waving version of "Only in America" that featured a surprise appearance by three members of the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard. As if that weren't enough, four cannons showered the crowd with red, white and blue confetti.