As summer comes to a close, so does the country concert season at the First Niagara Pavilion and in true country style, this year’s honor was the legendary Toby Keith.
For some country fans, the Toby Keith concert is very much a tradition that is best served with a few hours of partying in the parking lot prior to entering the venue, and that’s just what happened last Saturday night.
For a September show, I was probably not the only one who thought fans would be donning a light sweater for the evening show, not sweating profusely while standing still under the pavilion seating in the 90 degree heat at 8 p.m.
I’m pretty sure I haven’t missed a Toby Keith concert since I was a teenager when “How Do You Like Me Now?” was released in the 90s. He’s simply a legend in good, opinionated country music and his live shows always leave fans smiling.
This year was a typical Toby show complete with Ford Logos, a few political cracks, and the annual bus songs usually only heard live (though a few have been recorded). Keith’s collection of hits spans far and wide so it’s no surprise you could hear several fans mumbling as they rolled out of the venue that he didn’t play this one or that one, but when you have so many hits 90 minutes just isn’t enough time to get them all – but the big one were all present and accounted for.
Keith stuck to the big fan favorites, as he normally does which included closing out the set with “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue,” “How Do you Like Me Now,” “Beer for my Horses” and “Weed with Willie.”
Much to many fan’s surprise, Toby also recanted the tale of the online vote on his website prior to the tour to pick a fan favorite song that’s typically not played during the live shows. Before he kicked off a single note of the song, he divulged the tale of how he actually had the song on an early album but the label though the song “sucked” so it was never cut. He then toured with Reba and during one of the shows, he decided to play this beautiful ballad live and see what happened. The song took the world by storm and became a huge hit and the title track to the next album, which was “Blue Moon.”
I can’t even remember the last time Toby played such a beautiful ballad at a show live, since he normally sticks to the fun, drinking and dancing songs. While most of his recent hits are very fun loving and fan-friendly, hearing Keith belt out the beautiful ballad took me back to the good ol’ Toby days with songs like “Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This” proving that he’s more than just a “fun” singer, he really has a great soulful sound.
Joining Toby on tour this year was country-rocker, Eric Church. Church Is no stranger to the world of music driving off his own collection of hits which include “How ‘Bout You,” “Love Your Love The Most” and his two most recent singles, “Homeboy” and “Drink in my Hand.”
Church commands the stage, treating the set more like a rock show than country – complete with head-banging guitar players. Backed by a very rock-inspired skull logo, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.
Newcomer to the music circuit, JT Hodges kicked off the show filled with passion and star power. His debut single, “Hunt You Down” peaked at #41 on the country charts. While it’s still early, exposure on the Toby Keith tour should prove useful for his career. I’d look for great things from him in the future.
Overall, the show was exactly what you’d expect with good music, crazy fans and a whole lot of American pride.