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Party ready Country rocker Wilson brings out the rednecks

The sold-out crowd was peppered with cowboy [or rather, girl] hats, tattered jeans and overalls, and tank tops declaring Redneck Womanhood.

The audience in the Avalon Ballroom made it clear: They were there for the party.

With a debut album selling more than 5 million copies and two follow-up records under her belt, country rocker Gretchen Wilson made it just as clear she was ready to party.

Breaking out of a tacky, smoking trailer complete with flowered window boxes, Wilson made her entrance loud and proud, and the audience couldn't have enjoyed it more. Opening with the no-nonsense anthem "Homewrecker," the concert turned into a sing-along from the opening lines.

"You guys came ready to rock tonight, I can tell," laughed Wilson.

A dedication to the ladies in the audience only ignited more applause and declarations of love, as Wilson launched into "One of the Boys." Though boasting about holding her liquor and kicking boy butts, the song showcased the singer's softer side as she sang about ultimately needing to be somebody's baby. "Come to Bed" and "Girl I Am" followed shortly after, and it was these slower, sweeter songs that truly displayed Wilson's talented vocals.

However, the night was not without its country rock. Wilson mixed older tracks from her debut, "Here for the Party," with new tunes from her recent 2007 release, "One of the Boys." Crowd favorites included "If You Want a Mother," "Rebel Child" and "California Girls." The singer later brought a little Lynyrd Skynyrd to the stage with a rocking performance.

Wilson, who has a reputation for bringing an edgy, independent country style and the stories of a rocky upbringing into her songs, seemed to enjoy interacting with her fans.

While introducing the upbeat fan favorite "There Goes the Neighborhood," Wilson spoke about how her recent success has brought more family members into her house -- as well as cats, dogs, and, well, lawn ornaments. Looking into the audience, she looked for people to relate.

"We've got some rednecks in the audience, don't we?" she said, and the crowd only confirmed her suspicions.

Despite the down-home lyrics and friendly banter with the audience, the show had two major flaws. Although the stage setting was both creative and fitting for Wilson's character, the bright, blinking spotlights that roamed the crowd seemed more suitable for large stadium shows or outdoor festivals instead of the intimate atmosphere of the Avalon. Add the fan placed at Wilson's mic stand (making her flying hair more distracting than model-esque) into the mix, and the added glitz and glamour of the show was much less country girl and much too loud. Speaking of noise levels, the actual sound, at times, was just that -- too loud.

Yet as the show came to a close, fans appeared satisfied as they sang along to Wilson's most notable sassy single, "Redneck Woman."

They showed up for a neighborly hoedown. A night of knee-slapping sing-alongs with a friend. Wilson proved to be just that.



WHO: Gretchen Wilson

WHEN: Thursday night

WHERE: Avalon Ballroom of Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort

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