Martina McBride Reliant Stadium March 9, 2011
Ain't no use in complaining, when you've got a job to do.
With SXSW bearing down on us like a freight train and the Rodeo squeezing us like a vise, Aftermath basically wants to kill everyone but our cat right now. Then when she starts poking at us around 4:30 a.m. because it's been a few interminable hours since we fed her, our thoughts start heading in that direction too.
So we might have grumbled a little bit on our way to see Martina McBride at Reliant Stadium Wednesday. Really, it was limited to joking about how we were the only man in the building there of our own free will. (Sort of.)
Towards the end of a set that we enjoyed overall and downright impressed us a couple of times, we heard some familiar chords and glanced down at the pre-published set list we had copied into our notebook. "Hmmm... the opening of 'Independence Day' sure sounds a lot like 'Summer of '69," we thought.
Then McBride began singing "I got my first real six-string..." and we broke into a grin as wide as the Southwest Freeway.
Of this year's Rodeo entertainers, only Alan Jackson has played the revolving stage more times than McBride - who turned three years old in the summer of '69, making her seven years younger than Bryan Adams - and only Jackson was on the charts before the Kansas-born ginger broke out with 1993's energetic bit of wish-fulfillment "My Baby Loves Me." Nobody this year is a better pure singer.
With that big gospel voice, McBride was born to sing Diane Warren-ish piano-pop ballads like "Valentine" and "Anyway," but she really shone on the more inspirational songs. "Wild Angels" reminded us a little of the Corrs' "Breathless," and McBride put so much oomph into "A Broken Wing" - holding the final "fly" for what seemed like an eternity - that may have been the reason she let her guitarist take such a long solo on "Summer of '69" and closer "Independence Day" felt cut a little short. Accusatory ballad "Where Would You Be" made us wonder what she could do with a Staples Singers song.
Aftermath didn't really expect the harmonica on the talkin' Bob Dylan mom-country blues pairing of "Love's the Only House" and "Blessed," but it fit well alongside the rootsy pop of opener "When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues" and "Wrong Baby Wrong." McBride tacitly acknowledged her status as one of contemporary country's grande dames by debuting new single "Teenage Daughters," a song that poked at the callow crop of new-country superstars with lines like "She's sweet when she wants money" even as it fit squarely into that poppier mold. Airplay is still airplay, especially in country.
But where Taylor Swift and her ilk grew up on McBride, Shania Twain and Reba, Martina herself was raised on Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Crystal Gayle, and hasn't forsaken her roots. Until the surprise of "Summer of '69," our favorite moment had been her cover of Ray Price's "Heartaches By the Number," which she and her band aced.
It made us wonder if Robert Ellis & the Boys might be doing that exact same song at that exact same moment up at Fitz's, and also if it would kill McBride to sing Lynn Anderson's "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" (from the same album, 2005's Timeless) too.
But no, we got Bryan Adams instead. And we were perfectly happy with that. Maybe Wednesday wasn't the best day of our life, but we'll take it.
Personal Bias: A reading from the book of Wooderson: Love those redheads, man.
The Crowd: Like the song says, this one's for the girls. Pretty sparse too.
In the Crowd After Mutton Bustin':
Announcer, to winner: "How did you practice for something like this?"
Kid: "On my dad."
Random Notebook Dump: This was only Aftermath's second rodeo show this year, but it seems like the sound in Reliant is much, much better.
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When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues Wild Angels My Baby Loves Me Valentine Teenage Daughters Wrong Baby Wrong Heartaches By the Number (Ray Price cover) Anyway Love's the Only House/Blessed This One's For the Girls Where Would You Be A Broken Wing Summer of '69 (Bryan Adams cover) Independence Day