The Band Perry Reliant Stadium March 22, 2014
Even in 2014, Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls" is not a song one normally expects to hear once in rodeo season, let alone twice. While Neil Perry, youngest member of the twentysomething Mobile-born sibling trio, couldn't bring quite the same lascivious smirk to the song as Kevin Fowler at the World's Championship Bar-B-Que cookoff a few weeks ago, he did reassert its value as a surefire crowd-pleaser whose ability to cause people both his age and a generation older titter and clap along simultaneously is almost eternal.
Saturday night at RodeoHouston, "Girls" also gave Neil's older sister Kimberly a chance to take a much-needed breather. Up to that point, about halfway through the band's hourlong set to an announced crowd of 73,943, she had hardly stopped moving for a second -- twisting, shouting, shaking, pumping her fists in the air, and generally doing the kinds of things singers do to hold a stadium full of people's attention. In the past the knock on the Band Perry in the past has been that they're a little green, a little too unsure of themselves to rank among country's elite acts, but that wasn't the group that showed up Saturday.
Going on her looks alone, the blonde and lithe Kimberly has probably heard all the Taylor Swift talk she needs to for several lifetimes. Never having seen Swift live, the pattern of down-home personality coupled with pop-star pizzazz definitely fits. But it's hard to imagine how the lady in Red can be any more compelling in concert than Kimberly, who never seemed less than completely in charge Saturday. "Fat Bottom Girls" included.
Even with her brothers playing ace supporting roles -- like Neil's funny comment about "putting the 'man' in 'mandolin'" and some rock-solid bass by Reid all evening -- it was difficult to look away from her, even hundreds of feet away. It's also probably a safe bet that Swift has never rocked as hard as Kimberly did on "Double Heart."
That song, from the group's 2010 debut, is about suitors who have an unfortunate habit of getting prematurely tattooed with the titular twin hearts. The band is also awfully cheerful for a group whose two biggest songs to date, "Better Dig Two" and "If I Die Young," are both about death. In fact, all the songs they played Saturday have the narratives and the imagery to make excellent videos, even if the actual video for the last one ("Done") went a little bit too Fall Out Boy with its artistic license.
Still, their latest, "Chainsaw" -- woman reflects on her and an old boyfriend's name carved into a nearby tree, while brandishing said branch-clearing equipment -- sounds promising based these lyrics alone: "But I ain't gonna be happy until those names fall/ And I'm sittin' on a stump." Hell, they even prefaced that song -- an eerie march that vaguely recalls Tim McGraw's "Indian Outlaw" -- with Pitbull and Kesha's recent hit "Timber" and made it work.
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As a first-timer, it seemed to me that The Band Perry is trying to reconcile their country roots with the wider pop universe that has chewed up and spit out any number of acts just like them. But they have been playing together since their pre-teen years, which is obvious on songs like "All Your Life" and "You Lie," and have the kind of sibling-driven chemistry onstage that's nearly impossible to fake; never mind those harmonies that can defeat any echo.
So far they're doing a better than average job, judging by the group's lengthy string of successful radio singles over just two albums. Now they've turned a corner into becoming a dynamic live act that can borrow freely from pop and rock, both visually and musically, and still come out recognizably country. That's never been easy to do, let alone these days. Never underestimate the value of peaking at the right time.
Personal Bias: Enjoyed the radio singles, but was really sold here. Would like to see them again in a smaller venue; say, Toyota Center.
The Crowd: Hard to get a read on, really. Except lots of families -- it seemed like every third person I saw was pushing a stroller.
Overheard In the Crowd: "It's like having a dog"
Random Notebook Dump: Offhand comment by a rodeo announcer during the team-roping finals: "He had a horse kick him the other day."
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