More and more, corporations are getting into the concert business. And for fans of country music, that's both good and bad news.
The Travis/Wynette/Oslin show on Saturday, for instance, was sponsored by GMC. And at time when many independent concert promoters are having a hard time making money in the business, corporate help is a plus.Yes, the audience had to sit through a few commercials and had to wait out a drawing for a new Chevy truck, but on the up side, GMC was able to really sink some money into this tour - more money than independents ever can.
The staging was as expensive and professional as television's CMA Awards. Two large closed-circuit screens beamed close-ups of the singers to folks in the back rows; the lighting was high-tech and the sound was top notch.
Performers have complained in the past about corporate sponsorship (free spirits such as Merle Haggard and Alabama had a hard time knuckling under to the whims of Marlboro in last year's Marlboro tour, for instance) but for fans - especially American fans used to hearing pitch men marketing their wares every few minutes - GMC and other sponsors are a dividend for country music.
Tammy Wynette opened the show. She's back making a run at the brass ring again. And she hasn't lost a thing - physically or emotionally. After drawing on old hits such as "I Don't Want to Play House" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," she showcased her new single "I Thanked the Cowboy For a Ride." It's a ready-made hit. And "Stand By Your Man" was easily the sing-along hit of the evening.
Her strong vocals and a first-rate band (Tim Watson was unbelievable on the fiddle) make her comeback more than an evening of nostalgia. She's a viable star of the future as well.
And speaking of stars of the future, K.T. Oslin, dressed in a purple business suit and black gloves, entered next. Her brassy, sassy Older Woman routine went down well. She flavored her set with some novelty numbers (a song she wrote years ago called "I Ain't Never Gonna Love Nobody But Cornell Crawford," to name one). She also went through the songs people had come to hear such as her big single, "Come Back."
Her stage presence was honest and riveting. She's obviously an "80s lady" with even better things awaiting her in the '90s.
Randy Travis - who would be known as "Old Blue Eyes" if Sinatra hadn't taken the name - brought the show home with his combination of genuine country manners and solid songs from his albums: "No Place Like Home," "Too Gone, Too Long," "Honky Tonk Moon," "On the Other Hand," etc.
At one point he winked at the audience and said: "It's sure good to be back among fine American folks for a change. We spent the last week in California."
That, needless to say, brought down the house as much as any tune he crooned.