Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Clark's band, ballads bring out best in her

By Jeff Wilson
Enquirer contributor

It would be unfair to accuse country singer Terri Clark of a lack of professionalism, so we will overlook the fact that during her concert at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Sunday she felt compelled to change the lyrics to a song because the opening act already had performed it and that her improvised lyrics were gibberish.

Her snafu becomes even more understandable when you take into consideration that the song in question was "Girls Night Out." Thematically, it must have been highly tempting considering the demographics of the evening: two women singing country music to a crowd composed primarily of women sharing a night on the town.

And besides, Clark had already proved her professionalism. Her opener, the title track from her latest release, Pain to Kill, made it clear that her seven-piece band had mastered the art of sounding polished but not slick and that she knew how to belt out lyrics as well as any country singer today.

Her skill with ballads became apparent during a lovely song she wrote with Mary Chapin Carpenter, "No Fear."

Shortly thereafter it was just her and her guitar, at which point the evening took some unpredictable turns, including the previously mentioned faux pas.

A medley of cry-in-your-beer country classics like "Leavin' On Your Mind" and "How Blue" paid a straight-ahead homage to country legends. Then she took some requests. A bunch, actually. But instead of granting them one at a time, she waited until the requesters all had their say and then sang excerpts from a wide range of tunes.

Unfortunately, those not in attendance may never know what it was like to hear her cover John Anderson's huge hit, "Swingin'."

On "A Country Boy Can Survive" her attempt to imitate the voice of Hank Williams Jr. fell short, but you can't blame a soul for trying.

After the band returned, a string of rockers ("I Just Wanna Be Mad," "Better Things to Do," "You're Easy on the Eyes" and "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me") closed the set.

The encore provided its own surprises, starting with an infectious version of a Faces song, "Stay With Me." The band rocked, in a country kind of way, and then got funky as it segued into snatches from a couple Rufus tunes, "You Got the Love" and "Tell Me Something Good."

Opening act Kellie Coffey brought the crowd to its feet for "When You Lie Next to Me," "At the End of the Day" and a cover of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'."

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