Martina McBride at the Midland…and more

Well, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I still have Yams and cranberry sauce coming out of my ears. Food, Football, and Family. Thanksgiving is pretty wonderful 90-95% of the time and this year I had a great time. After the big feed and getting myself out to a few places on Friday (the crowds weren’t as massive as I had suspected, as most of the crazies went out Thursday to fight for a few bargains), I did make it to a couple of shows, to help me relax and to let the leftovers settle.

Spent some of Friday night (11/28/14) at Knuckleheads, taking in The Belairs first show of their annual Thanksgiving weekend gig.  Bigger crowd than the last time I saw the band and there’s not a whole lot you can say about these guys that most folks who have seen them already don’t know. Their show and sound has changed little since the band began eons ago, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?  They are fun and always get the dance floor hopping.  Bassist/vocalist Dick Pruitt and drummer Mike Cherry are a fine rhythm section, but the star of the band, for me, is Dick’s brother, guitarist David Pruitt.  That guy can get the dance floor hopping with merely a simple funky riff and man, the guy can play.  Love the sound he gets from those vintage guitars.  I sat through two 75 minutes sets and took off before a final set started.  Just worn out, I suppose. “The Blues is Walkin’” is my favorite song they do live and it was great, as was most of their set. Truly a solid live trio. So, as always, The Belairs brought the party to Knuckleheads and the large crowd had a blast sweating it out on the dance floor.  What more do ya want?

On Saturday night (11/29/14), I made the trek downtown to see Martina McBride at the Midland. I love her Country stuff, so seeing her supporting an R&B covers album could go either way…and it did. I was a tad disappointed with the big, Vegas-like show Martina gave the KC crowd. I grew up with AM radio, so I love old-school R&B, but as a performer, I would have liked Martina to stick to what she does best.  Instead of fiddles and steel guitars, Martina brought along an 11-pice band, which included a cheesy horn section, complete with schmaltzy, choreographed moves, three backup singers (quite good – one of the backups, Shelly Fairchild, had a major label album that I picked up in 2005.  She dropped off the radar shortly after that.), and a guitarist, keyboardist, and a snazzy rhythm section.  The males all wore suits and ties, instead of the usual Country garb. Martina spent the hour and 50 minute show mixing some of her hits with many covers from the new record, and a couple of Christmas songs for good measure.  For the most part, the Vegas approach to her hits fell short for me.  I love “Wild Angels” and the horn section nearly ruined it for me.  Another hit, “Independence Day” fared a little better.  Although Martina was in fine voice throughout, some things worked and some didn’t. Aretha’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and The Supremes “Come See About Me” were smooth as silk, and Etta James “In The Basement” was really nice, but her take on “Suspicious Minds” was bland (not much of a fan of that song anyhow) and Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” was underwhelming. I have seen local bar bands cover that song more effectively. There was also a cover by PINK.  Really, Martina? Not a fan of Pink, so I’m not interested in the original version, let alone a cover, but to each his/her own…Suffice to say, Martina’s Midland gig  was hit and miss for me.

Also, I know that there is always a bit of artifice that takes place during most bigger live performances, but when it is too noticeable to ignore, it kinda annoys me. Case in point, many times throughout the show, guitarist Greg Foresman would be playing a lead part and I would hear a rhythm guitar playing or an acoustic guitar.  Greg played a slide guitar solo and I heard another lead part at the same time.  I could not find the other phantom guitarist anywhere.  With 12 musicians in stage including Martina, do you really need to pipe guitar parts in?  It happened nearly every song.  But the show, which was a shade TOO professional, wasn’t all bad.  Martina does have a powerful voice and the best moments for me was when the massive band left the stage and Martina sang a touching “In My Daughter’s eyes” with piano by bandleader Jim Medlin, and a beautiful a cappella rendition of “O Holy Night” near the end of the night.  Overall, it was nice to see Martina try something outside the box, compared to what she usually offers her fans, but the show could have been a looser, less polished affair.  Her next gig on this tour after KC is in Branson, Missouri,  and this conservative, glitzy production will go down like gangbusters there.  Hopefully, she can crank out another solid Country album and tour behind it. Martina, amazing vocalist that she has proven to be throughout her career, is not the draw she used to be (Last night’s show was far from a sellout), which is a shame, as some of the older Country songwriters and entertainers are still making great music and yet most of the ticket and album sales these days go to younger, less talented artists (Florida Georgia Line, anyone??). But Martina has more than enough talent to stay on the radar and I do look forward to what she does next. So…have a great week all and as always, hope to see you at a show down the line…

Keith (who is, for some strange reason, still craving PIE!)

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