Monday, August 13, 2001

Storm can't cut 'Girls Night Out' short

By Jay Webber
Enquirer contributor

        The Girls Night Out Tour, which stopped at a sweltering Riverbend Music Center Saturday night, serves as a lesson on how to put on an excellent festival-style show.

        First, keep things moving. Saturday's show squeezed five female country acts into 4 hours by eliminating long delays between acts, often the bane of festivals. The average down time on this night was a mere eight minutes.

        Second, there has to be enough variety to hold the audience's attention. The evening opened with an excellent acoustic set by newcomer Carolyn Dawn Johnson, whose “Just Another Girl” and the thoughtful “Complicated” made her time seem too short.

        The show included thirty minutes from Sara Evans, easily the most powerful vocalist of the night. Ms. Evans shined brightest with “Saints and Angels” and “I Could Not Ask For More,” though it should be noted that the dramatic effect of a false finish begins to fade when nearly every song follows that pattern.

        There were also 45 headline-quality minutes from Martina McBride. Ms. McBride, managed to fit in a number of her pop-influenced hits, from “Independence Day” and “Valentine” as well as her latest — and crowd favorite — “When God Fearin' Women Get The Blues”.

        The final ingredient for festival success is to have the theme culminate with a superstar closer who keeps the crowd excited until the finish.

        And though ominous streaks of lightning late in the evening did open up a few feet of lawn as the less faithful and/or more faint-of-heart scurried for their cars, the vast majority stood its ground to see this tour's superstar, Reba McEntire.

        Those caught in the rain were rewarded with 70 great minutes from Ms. McEntire as well as an encore featuring the night's entire lineup. Ms. McEntire's theatrical performance repeatedly had the crowd on its feet and at one point, in a move that would likely have even David Blaine scratching his head, she magically changed costumes in the blink of an eye.

        It wasn't all flash, though. The emotion in the singer's voice made the back-to-back tear-jerkers “And Still” and “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” her most memorable moments of a most memorable night.


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