Trace Adkins opened for a night of beer, patriotism, and music
Last night (Thurs, Aug 23rd) on the Mashantucket Reservation, America’s drunk uncle visited Foxwoods Resort.
I call him that affectionately, as that’s how he behaved and dressed. Sauntering onstage during a film demonstrating Keith’s overseas USO tours, when the light hit him, country’s half-billion-dollar man could be seen wearing just some loose jeans, black fleece zip-up, and signature slim straw hat.
Throughout his nearly two hour set at the behemoth casino, Toby Keith entertained the crowd both with his biggest hits and the stories behind them. For instance, “Wish I Didn’t Know Now” was preceded with a tale of how a co-writing friend of Keith’s returned home to find another man’s truck in his girlfriend’s driveway. As soon as that friend uttered the phrase, “I Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then,” BLAM! A certified drunk uncle hit! (Seriously, I say it with love.)
Such song is an example of Toby Keith’s staying power. While some country artists have emotionally authentic songs and tongue in cheek music (hi Brad Paisley!), Toby Keith masters both in the same song.
Other songs that fit this mold are, “Red Solo Cup,” “Beers Ago,” and “How Do you Like Me Now?” We all know someone like Toby Keith: serious, complex, and emotional, but uses the lens partying provides in order to process the world around him. Yet, the music and messages never approach glorifying alcohol, but rather encourage having a beer and thinking about life.
That’s not to say Ol’ Uncle Toby is prone to leave the drinking at home. Nope, he brought it right out on stage. (In a red Solo cup, duh!) and as he talked and told his stories throughout the night, his speech seemed to slur, adding to the comedy, and leaving me to wonder what’s really in that cup. Is a man who’s net worth eclipses the greatest-selling solo artist of all time really going to get piss drunk on stage? My bet: It’s beer in the cup, but the inebriation is an act, following in the footsteps of some great Catskills comics of yore. The humor was too well timed to be drunken randomness.
Of course, not all Toby Keith’s music talk about beer and wild women. He can slide all the way down the authenticity scale, and does so with haunting depth. We’ve all had a relationship like the one depicted in “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This.” And perhaps, we’re better for it.
Trace Adkins opened the show with an hour long set of his own. To be honest, the sound system was too distorted to follow him. Though, having seen Adkins before, I can attest to his gravitas and talent. The crowd cheered ballad “You’re Gonna Miss This” as if it were a rocker, and screamed at the top of their lungs on set-closing “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” It’s no wonder he has groupies. I overheard one woman telling the merchandise manager she’d be seeing them in Branson, MO soon. When it comes to country, a familiar face is always welcome.
If there’s one thing that unites Toby Keith fans, it’s patriotism. Foxwoods is such a sprawling resort, I wasn’t sure if I was headed in the right direction to find the theater. Then I saw it: The sea of American Flag shirts, hats, belts, hankies. These red, white, and blue-adorned masses told me I had found my crowd. Sure enough, a short time later we were all at the box office.
Toby Keith may have won his fortune on the backs of his bar and grill chain, music, and other investments, but it’s his love for the troops that will be his legacy. Closing his set with “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue,” Keith delivers a message as potent today as it was when it was first released as a post-9/11 battle cry.
Toby Keith is a good man. He’s a true entertainer with one of country music’s most piercing and identifiable voices, he stands up for his country and honors its protectors at every chance, and of course, he enjoys a few drinks. I’d be proud to call him my Uncle. Would you?