On a night when the Western New York music scene was dominated by a quartet of aging Brits rocking a football stadium, it was a good ’ol boy from Clinton, Okla., strumming his guitar in the shadows of an amusement park that delivered an unforgettable evening of music.
Twenty-five miles to the east of Ralph Wilson Stadium, there was only one Keith that mattered, and it wasn’t the legendary lothario Keith Richards, it was the King of Country, Toby Keith.
On Saturday night, Keith rolled into Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on the latest stop of his “Good Times and Pickup Lines” tour and treated his faithful fans to a night of high-octane country music.
With his trademark cowboy hat atop his head and his trusty Red Solo Cup in hand, Keith wasted no time getting patriotic launching into, “Made in America,” complete with red, white and blue pyrotechnics. The stage was set for a beer-soaked, testosterone-filled night.
As his fans know, Keith is more than just a powerful voice, he is the consummate showman on stage. Whether he was toasting the troops, passing his mic into the crowd for some vocal back-up, or signing an autograph mid-song, it was clear that Keith loves his fans and relishes his time on stage.
It was never more evident than during his campy hit, “Red Solo Cup.” After imploring the crowd to sing along, telling them, “I want ’em to hear this all the way down at the Stones concert,” Keith drank, sang and drank some more, ending by tossing his empty into the crowd with a flourish.
The goose-bumps moment of the evening came when he fired up, “Whiskey For My Men, Beer For My Horses,” his 2002 duet with the legendary Willie Nelson, complete with the man himself singing on video right alongside Keith.
If there’s a knock on Keith the performer – and there certainly isn’t when it comes to his music – it might be the excessive commercialization of the show.
If you weren’t quite sure Ford was his sponsor, the endless videos playing behind him never let you forget. Then there was his flagrant swig from his personal brand of liquor, “Wild Shot,” for which the camera strategically zoomed in on the label.
All of it could have detracted from the performance, were the performance not so good.
For a performer with 18 studio albums to his credit, Keith did a masterful job of weaving in the hits his fans came to see (“Who’s Your Daddy,” “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and “Whiskey Girl,” among others) while offering up enough B-side songs to please his most ardent followers.
And the night wouldn’t have been complete without soaking in the packed house singing, swaying and drinking along to Keith’s 2003 ode to the local watering hole, “I Love This Bar.” Perhaps more than any other, it’s a song that reminds you why country music is so special.
By the time the last beer can was crushed, the last patriotic song sung, and the final pickup truck was ready to roll out of town, Toby Keith showed why he is consistently one of the best live tours in country music. In a day when ticket prices continue to climb, Keith delivers a show worth every penny.