Country star Toby Keith opened his winter tour at the Times Union Center Thursday night with a strong country-rockin’ show that kept on course with hit after hit, distracted only slightly by intermittent product promotion.
The songs were steady and forceful. Keith, without much effort, never let the energy lower. Opener “She’s a Hottie” was followed by “Honky Tonk U.,” “High Maintenance Woman,” “I’m Just Talkin about Tonight,” and “God Love Her” from his new “That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy.”
After “Whiskey Girl,” he told the crowd that “no one in the South realizes how many rednecks are here in New York.”
He played his satirical pseudo-rap “I Wanna Talk About Me,” which let the night relax a bit without losing its focus.
Video streamed through most songs, and his show opened with his movie promotion, which doubled as an ad for Ford trucks. A large Ford logo was part of the raised platform that held the drumset, a fiscal reality of large tours today.
“Get Drunk and Be Somebody,” from “White Trash Money,” put everyone on their feet for the first time, and Keith responded by stepping up a level himself. Keith then took a break while his backup singer oversang “Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi,” joined by a horn section.
Keith returned with his most sincere deliveries of the show, “Love Me If You Can.” He followed with the love ballad “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This.” He pushed this too hard and didn’t nail it like the preceding song, but still scored. He played a third ballad from the newest release, “She Never Cried in Front of Me.” This song moves up and down more than the others and it worked well enough, but Keith and his band used too much force to create the drama.
Then came the twangy country-loyal rocker “Who’s Your Daddy,” the catchy chorus accompanied by some pyrotechnic explosions, which somehow fit with the moment.
He then warned the crowd they were about to get a few more “redneck” songs, which included: “I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was,” with its video, followed by the sound-bite filled lyrics of “I Love this Bar,” and “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” the crowd handling the chorus.
He told a hilarious story before singing “I’ll Never Smoke Weed with Willie [Nelson] Again.”
“How many rednecks do we have in Albany, New York?” shouted opening act Jason Aldean. Aldean played a set that straddled the heaviest edge of country: his guitarists jumped around like punk rockers, filling the arena with fat chords while his drummer drove mighty hard through every tune.
“Amirillo Sky” resonated well. His hit “Relentless” seemed detached from any country thread, with its thrumming bass line and pounding snare. Still, the spotlights sprayed the audience, indicating the climax moment of Aldean’s set, though the crowd didn’t pick up on this.
Aldean covered Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” probably his softest tune of the night. “Laugh Until We Cried” and “She’s Country,” his latest hit, scored the highest. The words were country, his hat and jeans were country, but the music felt closer to heavy rock. No one seemed to mind.
The arena was about two-thirds filled, a good showing these days. And they got their country money’s worth for sure.