Saturday night, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn performed their last RodeoHouston ever; after 19 consecutive years, the duo has decided to part ways and pursue different directions... or so they say. Aftermath wouldn't be surprised to see a reunion tour in less than five years. Then again, maybe that's just wishful thinking. While their split is indefinite, for the time being, this was the band's final show, and the country legends didn't disappoint. After a short video tribute to the men of the hour, the lights dimmed, the fireworks went off and when the smoke cleared and the stage lights brightened, Brooks & Dunn appeared. The fans were so rowdy; we couldn't make out the announcers' words. Then the instruments started, and the crowd's roar slowly died down; we could hear guitar riffs - "Honky Tonk Stomp" riffs, specifically. As Dunn's voice, a twangy instrument all its own, reverberated throughout the stadium, we watched the crowd. All their eyes were gripped tightly to the stage, so we decided to watch too. Hoping not to get beer spilled all over ourselves this time, Rocks Off decided to head upstairs. When we arrived, we found B&D performing "Play Something Country"... and someone else in our seats.
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We took our dad with us, so we didn't want to cause a scene. Instead we sat down in the closest seats available and settled for a slight sneer at the bandits. Cowboys ain't cowboys without robbers, right? Three quarters of the way through the song, Brooks pulled out a harmonica and added a lot of funk to an already fun song. Even the three female backup vocalists must have been fans, they looked so happy to be onstage with the pair. Next up was "Red Dirt Road," to which we bobbed our heads and even sang along (albeit under our breath). Our dad smiled, amused no doubt that the music our sister forced us to listen to as a boy, the music we claimed to despise for years, was entertaining us on this very day. After discussing their first beers and finding Jesus in the same song - impressive, right? - Brooks took center stage as the lights dimmed to a dark blue as the mood became somber. As if to remind Houston that it was his last tour, he softly began to sing "You're Gonna' Miss Me When I'm Gone." Brooks' mike wasn't quite the quality of Dunn's (and neither was his voice, for that matter), but with every crack and rasp that didn't match up to the quality of an album, emotion shone through that much more. It felt real. After another slow song, "Neon Moon," B&D switched it back up on the crowd, speeding up to play "Put a Girl in It." The music video for the single, which played on the screens as the band played, reminded us why we used to want to watch MTV when we were a kid. Pixilated (but still very beautiful and barely legal) women hopped around for four whole minutes, sometimes strumming guitar and almost also in slow motion from great angles. We couldn't help but chuckle to ourselves at the thought of how many husbands must have gotten in trouble during those few minutes.
For their seventh song of the evening, "You Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl," Brooks hopped back on the harmonica and, again, we were impressed. Let us make ourselves clear: the guy's got skills. Usually, at least in our opinion, harmonicas come across as hoaky. But in this case, we were pleased. "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)" reminded us why we respect violinists. Forget guitar solos; violin solos are what's up. As the touring band member focused on his instrument, Brooks and Dunn focused on their fans. From what seemed like out of nowhere, Brooks produced a t-shirt launcher and proceeded to... well, launch T-shirts into the crowd. Even Dunn looked surprised. After their ninth song, the two addressed the crowd. Preparing the fans for another serious tone, Brooks talked about how much fun the two have had over the years, especially at Rodeo Houston. Then they played it. We knew they would, though we thought they'd save it until the end: "The Last Rodeo." The red lights mixed with the darkness of the stadium seemed out of place; morbid almost. We understood at that moment why blue and white is the usual backdrop lighting for Rodeo performers - the country ones, at least. That or flashing lights works; the red and black made us think political, hard rock music, which we assume wasn't the feel B&D was going for. The most memorable part of the night was easily the performance of "Only in America." Two Army soldiers and one Navy shipman marched out in front of the stage as red, white and blue streamers shot into the air. It was quite a sight to see - a very patriotic homage. But the confetti covered the poor guys. They kept their steps but were forced to drag the ribbons with them. At one point during the song, Dunn shouted out something about the sun setting over the Houston freeway. Hey, other famous artists, give the city you're performing in some love. The crowd will adore you for it, and the press will know you aren't lip-syncing. Two birds, one stone. By their 16th song, we were pretty tired. But being that this was their last Rodeo, we suppose it made sense to play as much as they could. Brooks hopped off the stage and ran along the barriers giving fans high fives, and he even pulled two girls from the crowd and danced with them. We enjoyed the show, and the rest of the crowd did too. We had never seen the press box so full, either. The nasally twang and occasional growl that sets Brooks and Dunn's vocals apart from the rest will surely be missed. Thanks, guys. It's been fun. Even the previously skeptical Aftermath will miss you.