NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. -- For close to two decades, Clint Black has been one of the most interesting country music singers and composers.
He has gone from being the new hat in the ring to being one of the giants of contemporary country music.
Black, along with his longtime guitarist and co-writer, Hayden Nicholas, is responsible for crafting and/or otherwise performing on no less than 13 songs that hit No. 1 on the country music charts and more than a double handful of tunes that cracked the Top 10.
A lot of those big hits formed the core of Black's show Thursday night as he made Niagara Falls the only Canadian stop on his North American tour.
Those No. 1s included "The Shoes You're Wearing" (which started the concert off), "A Better Man" (Black's first chart topper, from 1989), "Nothin' but the Taillights" and "Summer's Comin'."
All of them showcased Black's Texas tenor in a musical bed created by his sterling band, with Nicholas' guitar punctuating arrangements with solos that were succinct, polished and stinging.
Other instrumental solos of note came courtesy of fiddler Dan Kelly, keyboard player Dane Bryant and Black, whose guitar riffing in "Nothin' but the Taillights" and harmonica playing in "State of Mind" were more than competent.
Although the show concentrated on his most familiar material, Black also offered up a couple of cuts from his forthcoming album.
There was his current single, a poignant paean to single mothers called "The Strong One" and an uptempo rocker, "Can't Quit Thinkin'," that, like many other contemporary country tunes, blurred the line between genres.
Black also operated sans band for a dead-on vocal impression of one of his heroes, Willie Nelson, during a performance of "Red Headed Stranger."
That, in turn, led to a down-home display of the raconteur's artistry about the first time he met his idol.
It was clever and witty storytelling, but not the sort of thing that could be repeated in a general circulation newspaper despite the lack of profanity.
Needless to say, the packed house laughed heartily in appreciation of Black's character study.
Another noteworthy feature followed Black's solo showcase when his band joined him on stage for what amounted to an acoustic music subset within the electric whole.
"Something We Do" and "No Time to Kill" were the highlights for this part of the show, but, when you get right down to it, Black's whole show was a display of highlights, a tribute to his skill as a showman and a song crafter.
WHO: Clint Black
WHEN: Thursday night
WHERE: Avalon Theatre of Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort