SPAC crowd treated to big moon, stars

A big, big night, in all kinds of ways. A big full moon gleamed over Saratoga Performing Arts Center

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To read Gazette music writer Michael Hochanadel’s preview of this show, click here to read his Jukebox column.

A big, big night, in all kinds of ways. A big full moon gleamed over Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, and a big crowd (10,500) loved Toby Keith and Trace Adkins in a big way.

Hugely successful recording artists with fistfuls of hits, both came up through the honky-tonk circuit, so they know how to entertain. Both led strong bands, Keith’s crew featuring horns and a drummer who played so far behind the beat he was in another time zone altogether.

A mountain of a man with a monumental voice, Adkins was the first of the two larger-than-life stars (six feet, plus) to rock the place. He sang in his lowest — really low — register to announce “I’ve Got My Game On,” then he cruised on his band’s ZZ Top-gear groove in “Swing Batta” before explaining the show was “Songs About Me.” It was also about gratitude: He swept off his leather cowboy hat to thank the crowd for paying the (fairly steep) ticket price for what’s being billed as “America’s Toughest Tour.”

Adkins mainly sang tough honky-tonk tunes, proclaiming his intention to “Marry for Money” and turning this around to complain “Her Favorite Color Is Gold.” Most of his love songs were upbeat, too — to a “Red Hot Mama” and the New Yorkers who proved to him during “Celebrity Apprentice” that “Ladies Love Country Boys.”

His band’s momentum and his own swagger — they were truly “Rough & Ready” — seldom gave way to gentler, slower fare, so “Every Light in the House Is On” and “You’re Gonna Miss This” packed a punch through contrast.

Fans sang along whenever he aimed the mike at them, especially the raffish set-closer “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”

A long, funny, hyper-macho video — basically a Ford trucks commercial — brought Keith and his Easy Money band onstage in gusts of confetti and roaring pyro to kick off with “American Ride.” Relaxed, large and in charge, Keith identified himself unnecessarily as “Big Dog Daddy,” then sang about women, humorously but respectfully, with “Whisky Girls,” “High Maintenance Woman,” “Just Thinkin’ About Tonight” and “God Love Her” before gazing in the mirror again with “Talk About Me.”

He stretched this with a singalong reprise, as he did with “Let’s Get Drunk and Be Somebody.” The slow love songs “Kiss Me Like This” and “How Was I Supposed to Know” didn’t lose momentum, but Keith and fans both seemed happy to rev up again on “Who’s Your Daddy.” Everything was easy-going 4/4 but the waltz-time “I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again,” a promise Keith freely admitted he’d broken.

A few more rowdy numbers, then it was flag-waving time as Adkins returned to duet on “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” — sincere, but mawkish just the same.

Trailer Choir, a deliriously wacky mash-up of Sugarland and the Confederate Railroad, compressed goofiness and generic rock in a five-song opener. Visually and musically, they had one of almost everything. Blandly devoid of musical surprises, derivative of everything on pop or country radio since the 1970s and infused with a party-hearty, honky-tonk spirit, they had big fun “Rocking the Beergut,” inviting three well-equipped fans onstage to put action to the sounds. But the 400-pound singer/dancer packed into overalls center stage made the most remarkable moves. More impressive than the music.

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