CLIFTON PARK — There was nothing low-key about country duo Montgomery Gentry’s acoustic performance at Upstate Concert Hall on Monday night.
While the acoustic guitars and cajon percussion box the stripped-down backing band played on certainly lowered the volume of the performance, the attack was mostly the same as it would have been at a full-blown electric Montgomery Gentry concert.
Both Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry were in fine form, the former doing his usual prancing about the stage with his microphone stand, the latter grinning and strumming away at his guitar. For more than an hour, the packed crowd danced, drank and screamed along to nearly all of the Kentucky duo’s party-hearty radio hits.
Although the set was relatively short — 13 songs, no encore — the band didn’t skimp, packing in most of their best-known material. The stripped-down group, featuring two acoustic guitars, bass and percussion, kicked off the party with the anthemic “Where I Come From,” while Montgomery and Gentry basked in the audience’s enthusiastic response.
They kept the mood upbeat for the next three songs, establishing a nice groove on the bouncing “If You Ever Stop Loving Me.” “Back When I Knew it All” suffered a bit from the band’s strict interpretations of the studio recording, with the acoustic rendition sounding a bit toothless, but things got right back on track with “Hillbilly Shoes.”
Two highlights came during the set’s quieter moments. The obligatory tribute to the troops on “Something to Be Proud of” worked extremely well in this setting, with Montgomery at times just conducting the crowd as it bellowed out the chorus. They followed it with their latest single, “I’ll Keep the Kids,” a surprisingly intimate and affecting look at Montgomery’s recent divorce that received some of the evening’s strongest applause.
But for the most part, the duo kept things light and loose, with Montgomery serving as the flamboyant ringmaster to Gentry’s (slightly) more subdued stage presence. They grinned their way through rowdy hits “Hell Yeah,” “Roll With Me” and “What Do You Think About That,” at times cracking each other up with inaudible asides. “One in Every Crowd” became an almost touching, albeit boozy tribute to the duo’s lifelong friendship.
The group got even looser for the final two songs, including a rare gem from Gentry, the double entendre-laced “Titty’s Beer.” The mellow rock groove of “Gone” closed the set on a high note, with the band jamming a bit after Gentry and Montgomery left the stage. Although raised hopes for an encore were not met, the crowd didn’t seem to mind too much.
Two local groups got the evening rolling with equally stripped-down acoustic sets of old favorites that got the already large crowd going. The Back40 Band, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, kicked things off a little after 7:30 with a set highlighting fiddle player Steve Wayne. His best moment, and indeed the entire band’s, came with Alabama’s “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band), which turned into an extended sing-along jam session.
Skeeter Creek was up next, bringing a more modern sound and male and female harmonies courtesy of Dave Ahl and Renee Lussier. Their moment came on Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” which turned into another rowdy shout-along.