Friday night at the Vassar/Pickler concert: Waiting for the Words

In country western music, words are the thing

As American Idol fans, my wife and I were excited about attending Idol alum Kellie Pickler’s Friday night show at the May Fair. Another couple from Dixon went with us.

Last year, my wife and I attended the Trace Adkins show with some Merle Haggard thrown in (my wife is a country music fan, I’m so-so about it) and after an earlier warm day, a cold, stiff delta breeze sprang up. I was wearing shorts and single-layer shirt, but for some reason had brought a Snuggie with me. That proved to be a livesaver, as I wrapped it around wife and I and it kept us somewhat warm. People around us, in the same fix, were offering to buy it from us. Meanwhile, some of the younger crowd, happily inebriated with antifreeze in their blood, were dancing away in bare tank tops and less.

So this year, despite my wife’s pronouncement that the weather prediction was for an evening of 75-degree temps, I stuffed two winter coats into my knapsack. A little breeze sprung up, but she was right. However, sitting in the unreserved bleacher section as we were, with its hard aluminum seating, sitting on the winter coats proved a good idea.

Last year we paid to sit in a back reserved section, but our bleacher section to the side Friday night was just as close to the stage and we were up higher – at about half the cost.

Country/rock singer Phil Vassar began the show right on time at 7 p.m., but only around one-third of the seats were filled. Phil is a high-energy guy who plays a mean piano (at times singing from on top of it) and knows how to entertain, even asking for song requests from the audience. A couple sitting next to us said they’d come more to hear him than Kellie Pickler. But there were a few too many “Thanks for inviting us; we’re glad to be here” comments from Phil. Why not say something about Dixon, the wonderful weather, and so on?

I loved it when he launched into a great rendition of the Four Seasons’ “December 1963” that begins with “Oh what a night.” Trouble is, he cut it off halfway into the lyrics.

As the sun edged toward the horizon, he and his band rolled up their carpet and it was time for the Kellie Pickler band to set up. This offered a good time to wander over and catch a beer.

While Phil used two guitar players, Pickler had four. Perhaps it was her larger band, perhaps it was the people at the sound-mixing console, perhaps it was her singing, but where we were sitting, we couldn’t make out the words she was singing. And in country music, the words count. They’re important. We could usually make out Phil Vassar’s words.

Maybe those in the audience who were familiar with Pickler’s hits already knew the lyrics, but we didn’t.

This brings up a criticism of the American Idol TV competition, the incubator for so many of today’s singers. During the competition, there are too many instances of singers who fail to sing words understandably and convey the full meaning of a song. Perhaps they need more professional training. At any rate, the judges, who seem to have become cheerleaders, fail to criticize this defect. Only the “scream and yell” singers don’t need much enunciation.

Pickler couldn’t chat up the crowd as well as Phil did. There was more of the “It’s great to be here, thanks for inviting us” stuff and some background about some of her songs, but little about Dixon and the May Fair.

The best singer I’ve seen at the May Fair so far in terms of music and audience connection was Chris Issak a couple years ago.  

By the time Pickler was a couple songs into her show, the audience had swelled to filling about two-thirds of the seats in both reserved and non-reserved.

The presence of security at the May Fair is heavy (they “wand” everyone coming in). Along the heavy theme, a few officers need to lose gut weight, or risk a coronary while chasing someone.  

My suggestion for next year’s entertainment lineup? Bring in Huey Lewis and the News. I never get tired of his hits.

It will be interesting to see how many seats the comedian Larry the Cable guy fills on Saturday night. If the audience can’t make out his words, there will be a problem, Houston.    

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Ian Arnold May 13, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Not a Pickler (or a country music) fan myself, but it's unfortunate that we didn't fill the venue. I'm not surprised that Snoop Dogg had a 75% turnout, given it was a Wednesday, but I found myself disappointed yesterday when the Romantics and the English Beat filled what looked like less than half the seats. Those of us who attended sang along and danced along, and our knees are still hurting, but I wonder if we can continue to bring in big-name acts if we can't fill the seats. Again, I'm not surprised that Wednesday and Thursday are underattended (though I recall a couple of years ago when the B-52s packed the Mayfair grounds,) I am surprised, however, that a Friday night show wasn't packed. Wrong type of music? Wrong artist? Again, I have nothing against Pickler, it's just not my type of music, but we should be on the lookout for acts that can pack the joint on the prime nights. (Friday and Saturday.) I recall hearing from one of the "Friends of the Mayfair" that one of the country concerts (Trace Adkins possibly?) was so undersold that the "Friends" prowled the Fairgrounds that year handing out free tickets in order to fill the seats. Maybe next year we should consider a Dub Step show. I certainly wouldn't go, but I'd bet the under 25 crowd would snap up the tickets. (When did I get this old?)
Ian Arnold May 13, 2012 at 05:59 AM
"Pending approval?" Seriously Carlos? You have to approve individual comments? There's a program that other blogs use that ID specific words and block the post, pending approval. I can't imagine your parent company can't afford a program that would ID and block profanity. Profanity aside, I'd have thought healthy discussion would drive advertising...
Carlos Villatoro May 13, 2012 at 07:05 AM
Ian, didn't switch on the moderation on this story, so dunno why you got that message. I will look into it though and let you know. As far as I know, the comments are posting as soon as you write them. True, we do have the option to moderate comments, but I only do this with stories that are generating a large amount of comments that are in violation of our terms of use.
Ian Arnold May 13, 2012 at 07:35 AM
No worries. I was giving you a hard time. I understand that media outlets need to be concerned about what is posted to their sites.


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