A double dose of full-strength country music
WORCESTER - That strange, fascinating beast, modern mainstream country music, roared into Worcester Saturday night in the form of two of its veteran stars, Trace Adkins and Martina McBride.
Adkins emerged first, his rumbling baritone in full force, for an hour of amped-up music that briskly covered the usual bases in his musical iteration of the contemporary male persona. “Rough & Ready,’’ “Ladies Love Country Boys,’’ the honking “Chrome’’ and the hick-urban dancefloor mashup “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’’ portrayed the good-timing, skirt-chasing, good ol’ boy. “I Wanna Feel Something’’ expressed his sensitive side, “You’re Gonna Miss This’’ and “All I Ask For Anymore’’ the devoted family man, and “Hot Mama,’’ the devoted yet still romantic family man.
All of this is a standard part of a Trace Adkins show, but the 60 minutes constrained him from moving beyond those boundaries - until his encore, when, accompanied by a local gospel chorus, he paired the testifying “Muddy Water’’ with the gospel funk of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground’’ to bring his portion of the evening to a soaring close.
Although this show was billed as a performance by co-headliners, apparently some co-headliners are more equal than others, because Martina McBride followed Adkins with a set that was almost twice as long.
McBride’s calling card has long been a brand of anthemic fare shot through with bromidic themes of dream-chasing and empowerment, primarily female. All that was front and center Saturday, from her latest hit, the show-opener “Shine,’’ to “My Baby Loves Me’’ to McBride’s signature song “Independence Day.’’
And it was spectacularly evident mid-point in her performance, when she stole a page out of the book of the godfather of arena country, Garth Brooks. Strapped to a blue-neon quarter moon, she rose from behind the stage to be conveyed slowly over the crowd to the other side of the venue, all the while singing “Concrete Angel.’’ If the song’s lyrics seemed somewhat out of sync with the visual sentiments of the display, that didn’t detract from its effect in the least.
Her encore was striking, too, but for a different reason: McBride chose to close the show with a pair of songs that seemed worlds apart from country music - Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer’’ and Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.’’ But in a world where Jon Bon Jovi can release a record that gets called country, maybe it makes perfect sense that the finale of a country show could be the hair metal anthem that made him famous.