Martina McBride and Trace Adkins at The Patriot Center, 01.31.10 – A Story in Two Parts
I’ll warn you first, if you solely want to read all about the concert I attended with my friend Eddie, skip ahead to part two. Part one is all about what happened before the lights went down and the show began. It’s a good true tale. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read it, just if you wanna read about the show first, read part two, then come back and read part one…or read them in order, it’s up to you.
PART ONE: ‘Damn…it’s STILL snowing!!’
I have known Eddie Pickering for over 20 years now. I knew him when he was just a ‘long haired kid in a Led Zep shirt’ in Algebra class, and I was there as his tastes slowly moved toward country music, circa 1990-91. I’ve seen numerous shows with him: Metallica in 1992 [in other words, when they were cool], KISS, Dwight Yoakam, and just last year, we saw Paul McCartney and U2. Eddie has a very short list of artists he has to see whenever they are remotely nearby. All the other artists are nice, but I think I know who his ‘Big Three’ are, in no particular order: Hank Jr., George Jones…and Martina McBride [last name included for the uninitiated].
On one of our road trips this summer, just as I was starting to revel in the music of Taylor Swift, Eddie played Martina’s latest CD, ‘Shine.’ I was receptive to it and we listened to Martina CDs for the rest of the trip. Tour dates for 2010 were announced for both Martina and Taylor around the same time. I thought I would have to bribe someone to drive me to see Taylor, but Eddie was eager to attend. And, I found myself wanting to see Martina in concert, more so to watch Eddie watch Martina in concert…at least that’s how I saw it at the beginning.
Saturday, January 30 – It snowed. It snowed a lot. We talked on the phone several times Saturday and, after attempting [and failing] to get his car out of his driveway, Eddie was almost resigned to the fact that we were gonna miss the show. I checked the venue website and kept tabs on Martina’s Twitter account but, so far, no word on a cancellation or postponement. We talked late Saturday night and Eddie said he wanted to delay his ‘final decision’ until noon Sunday. I understood and agreed. Then, in a very nice gesture, Eddie said, ‘I want to assure you that if this were a Taylor show we were trying to get to, we’d find a way!’ I said, ‘Well, if it was a Taylor show this weekend, I would have left town after work on Friday to get to Fairfax before the snow. Thankfully, it’s not, but I know you wanna see this show so…since you’re driving, it’s your call. I don’t mind if I have to eat the ticket.’ I went to bed doubting we would be able to go, and all the same relieved that Taylor’s concert dates are in March and June, not January and February.
Sunday morning, I woke up much earlier than planned because I couldn’t sleep. I really wanted to believe that we would be going to the show. Looking out at my street, I doubted it would happen. I called Eddie around 10:30. His wife Tucker answered. ‘Hey Tucker, how’s Eddie this morning?’ I asked.
‘He’s gone!’ she said laughing. ‘He got in the van and he’s gone!’
‘Well, that bodes well then, if he can get out of his neighborhood. Have him call me when he gets back. [He’d gone to get milk, bread and cigs.] I thanked Tucker again for letting us use the family van, when we realized the Camry wasn’t gonna be able to cut it in the weather.
Eddie and I talked around 11:30. He said simply, ‘Let’s do this!!’ We both came up with the idea to have me pack an overnite bag and crash at Eddie’s house in Midlothian after the show. We did this knowing that my hill was gonna be a problem once the sun went back down, and wanted to avoid getting stuck in the dark.
I later realized that getting stuck in daylight sucks almost as much as getting stuck in the dark.
Eddie arrived at my house around 1:30 and I had my overnight bag, ready to roll. We managed to get out to the van, which he had parked two houses further up my hill so he wouldn’t get stuck. As we pile into the van, my brother Brian and his girlfriend Mary pull up to our house in her car. Also, keep in mind that all day, my neighbors Ray and Tammy, and their friends have been driving up and down this hill on golf carts and ATVs. Surely a Chrysler van, complete with Sirius radio, DVD player, seating for eight, auto doors and auto start…surely this piece of American craftsmanship can muster enough force, strength and traction to get up my hill, right?
I wasn’t concerned at first when we had the engine gunned, but seemed to go nowhere. It’s just temporary, soon the wheels will find a grip and we’ll be on our way. Eddie punched it again and the motor roared, but we went nowhere. My brother saw what was happening, surveyed the situation and asked Eddie, ‘Do you care about your floor mats?’ Eddie said no and Brian placed a mat under the right front tire. We hit the gas again…and we went nowhere. Tammy, who was clearing off my back steps, said the only way this was gonna work was if Eddie backed up to the very bottom of the hill and found a flat surface, hit the gas lightly, kept it in low gear and didn’t stop, hopeful to gain enough traction to get up the hill and onto the main, cleared road.
So, taking her advice, maybe even against his own better judgment, Eddie backed up the van, past my house, past Tammy’s house, to the very bottom of the hill, with nowhere to go but up.
I knew we were in trouble when we could maneuver left and right, but we were getting nowhere when we tried to go up the hill. I didn’t tell anyone, but the lyric ‘Took a whole lotta tryin’/Just to get up that hill’ from The Jeffersons Theme Song kept repeating in my head. At this rate, it seemed like we weren’t going anywhere. Valliant effort, but score this one for Mother Nature.
My neighbor Ray owns a landscaping business. I still don’t know exactly how many vehicles he has at his house, but he has a lot. One of those vehicles is a Ford Dually [pronounced ‘dooley’]. I don’t even know what that means exactly. All I know is it’s a big truck. Ray offered to tow the van up the hill using his truck, but only after an impassioned plea from his seven year old son Maverick. Maverick ran inside the house when it was evident we weren’t gonna be able to make it up the hill without some help, and yelled, ‘Dad, you have to come tow the van!’ to which Ray, who had been laughing at the poor idiots inside the stalled van while watching from his living room window, said ‘No!’
Maverick continued, ‘But Dad, its Barry! He really really needs to get to a concert!’ With Maverick’s adorable lisp, the words came out sounding like, ‘But Dad, its Bawwy. He reawwy reawwy needs to get to a concewt!’ Ray came outside and immediately started apologizing for laughing at us. ‘Man, I didn’t know it was you Barry. I am so sorry man. I mean it. I didn’t know…’ I assured him I didn’t mind, and I understood him laughing. I’d be laughing too if I weren’t sitting in the passenger seat.
Ray looked around the van and the only area where a tow-strap could be connected was to a bracket on the motor mount. I told Eddie, ‘This is your call. It’s Tucker’s van, and if anything happens to it, you’re dead, so you decide if you wanna do this, or call a tow truck.
Eddie decided to call his wife. She picks up, and he leads not with ‘Hello’ but ‘Do we have towing on our insurance?’ Not how I would’ve opened the conversation. Tucker decided to call Danny, a guy Eddie has known since high school. I knew him in high school too, but Eddie and Danny have kept in touch the past 18 years, whereas, I only see Danny when we meet at Eddie’s for birthday parties etc. Danny is a professional truck driver who tows and carries cars for a living. Eddie had talked to Danny on Saturday, seeking his assessment of the road conditions in preparation for our trip.
‘Don’t go ANYWHERE until Monday Eddie. The roads are horrible!’ Danny said.
Maybe we should’ve listened to him in the first place.
Tucker had called Danny simply to get his advice on whom to call in my part of town for a tow. Tucker did not expect Danny to drop what he was doing, get in his truck and drive from Powhattan to my house. Tucker called Eddie back and said that’s what Danny was gonna do. He was gonna come tow us up the hill. Eddie asked me what my address was. ‘5104,’ I said. Ray quickly looked at Eddie and said straight-faced, ‘You’re at 5102!’ which got a laugh from everybody, even Eddie I think.
So, we had about an hour wait until Danny would arrive. Ray offered to take me up the hill on his golf cart to my front steps. As I got into the cart, Ray apologized again and I told him it was fine. He seemed genuinely upset that he had been laughing at my expense. The cart made it up the hill with no issue, and all the while Maverick was sitting on the bar in front of the driver with his arms looped around it for a grip so he wouldn’t fall off. As we made our way up the hill, I asked, ‘Hey Ray, ya wanna take me up to Fairfax in this thing?’
I arrived at the front steps just as Ray’s wife Tammy was clearing the front steps with a snow blower. The thing worked like a champ and made a nice pathway. It became apparent however, as she got to the steps leading to the sidewalk, that the snow blower was going to blow snow all over me, Brian and Mary. We were sitting ducks and Tammy knew it. I think she went over the same area twice just so she could douse us again with snow. I hadn’t fallen down yet all day, and now I had snow in my hair, on my glasses, all over my coat…it looked like I tried to make a snow angel!
Brian, Mary and I made it inside, while Eddie stayed down at the bottom of the hill with his van. He seemed more comfortable there, waiting for Danny. Brian, Mary and I watched the end of the Virginia Tech/Miami basketball game waiting for something to happen at the bottom of the hill. A little after 3:00, Danny arrived in his pickup truck. I was still inside the house, so I heard all of this second-hand. Apparently, once Danny saw the slope of the hill and the icy conditions, he decided even his truck wasn’t gonna do the trick. After some discussion, it was decided that Danny would use his tow-chains and straps and secure the vehicle, and Ray’s dually would do the towing. I happened to look outside as the dually was pulling Eddie’s van as if it were a caboose or a matchbox car…no problem whatsoever. When I saw that, I reached for my coat and gloves, ‘I guess we are going somewhere tonight.’
Danny said he was on call 24 hours, and if we happened to get stuck once we got into Eddie’s neighborhood, he told us to call him, no matter how late it might be. With many thanks to Ray, Tammy, Maverick, Danny and all the neighbors who helped, offered opinions, or simply stood outside to watch, we were on our way to Fairfax…though not before Tammy yelled out to me, ‘Hey Barry! Tell Eddie he owes me a bottle of Captain Morgan!’
‘When do you want it?’ I asked.
Maverick answered for her, ‘She wants it NOW! She always wants it now!!’ I laughed hard at that, said a last round of thank-yous and got in the van. I was already tired, and the road trip hadn’t even begun yet.
The roads were excellent for every moment of our trip up, apart from my hill. We were a little behind schedule but managed to arrive in town around 5:30, stopped at a Fuddruckers for dinner and around 6:30, made our way to the venue. I had been up a long time already, had given up more than once to the fact that we were not gonna make this show. I have to say, for the first time in a long while, the simple act of finding a parking space and negotiating the iced-over parking lot to get inside…that was a very rewarding feeling; and we still had a SHOW to see!!
As Eddie and I walked into the venue, the attendant saw we had floor seats and said, ‘You guys can head over there to the right to Guest Services, and they’ll let you take the elevator down to the floor.’ I wasn’t planning on taking the elevator, but once it became an option, I was all for it. So, we walked to Guest Services, and the individual there told us to double-back halfway to the elevator. We made it there around 7:00. We saw a small queue of fans waiting and talking with staff. It was here we learned that there was indeed an opener before Trace went onstage, so since he wouldn’t be starting at 7:30, I was relieved and whatever stress I had about getting to my seat before the house lights went out was gone. I didn’t care if I missed all of opener Sarah Buxton’s set.
In front of us waiting for the elevator was a veteran in a wheelchair; happily grasping a backstage ‘Meet & Greet’ pass he received from Trace earlier in the day when Trace visited Walter Reed Medical Center. Two women waiting with us were trying to hide their envy, but I just said, ‘That’s very cool! Enjoy it, that sounds awesome!’ not at all wanting to belittle his moment.
We took the elevator down, and we were dropped directly backstage, amid amps, road cases, guitars and road crew members. I’ve done this at least a dozen times before, so I was very calm and collected, acting as if I was just walking to my cubicle in my office, but I admit, it’s still a bit of a rush to be backstage, even if you don’t see any celebs. I’m someone who loves to see a show from the front row, but would enjoy it maybe even more from the road crew’s point of view under the stage. I’m fascinated to see how a show gets put together.
We made it to our seats, on the floor on stage right, and, as I looked and saw the stage and view from our vantage point, I said out loud, ‘Damn good seats!’ I decided at the last second before leaving the van to put on my coat, so I was wearing a t-shirt, a dress shirt and a heavy coat. As soon as I found my seat, the coat and dress shirt came off. Mom would have been proud that I at least wore a coat inside the building.
Part Two: The Actual SHOW Review
Sarah Buxton took the stage with her guitarist and a percussionist for a quick acoustic set. She’s a new artist with her debut CD arriving February 23. Her single ‘Outside My Window’ has been on country radio and video channels since August, so I at least knew one song. I looked over at Eddie two songs in and said, ‘This is what Taylor Swift hath wrought…record execs are now looking for the female singer who can play guitar and they’re trying to catch lightening in a bottle again, leading to a slew of blonde-haired Taylor-esque wannabes.’ Sarah’s attractive and she can sing okay, but the songs sounded far too similar to be interesting.
As soon as Sarah ended her set, a video screen dropped down above center stage and the volume suddenly got pushed up to eleven. The pre-show video to introduce Trace Adkins was a five minute comedy piece about the perils encountered by the performer while trying to ‘make it to the show.’ After the day Eddie and I had experienced, parts of it rang too true.
The first thing that struck me as Trace appeared center stage in silhouette was how tall he was. He’s listed as the co-headliner on this tour with Martina so his set was close to an hour, and it was packed full of his biggest hits. In a show full of lights, screens, video montages, the only thing Trace had to do to make the girls scream was sing a note or two in the low growl he’s famous for, all the rest is just window dressing. His voice was impeccable and helped mask what at times was an uneven sound mix during his set.
Yes the ladies love Trace, but he managed to keep the guys interested too by showing scenes from his videos while he sang. If you’re unaware, his videos tend to be a bit racy, very suggestive, and always humorous.
Trace didn’t really talk to the crowd much until about five songs into the set, introducing ‘All I Ask For Anymore’ by saying it was up for a Grammy, ‘but the Grammys are tonight so I don’t guess I’m gonna go.’
Highlights for me were ‘You’re Gonna Miss This’, for it’s sweet sentiment and great lyric, and ‘Honky Tonk Badonk-a-Donk’, for it’s sweet sentiment and…nah! Truthfully, his entire set was great, and, even with all the lights and effects, he is one of those artists that can grab your attention with just a guitar and a microphone. I look forward to seeing him again when the tour comes to Richmond in March. Plus, it made me smile to see Trace give his hat to a young fan at the end of his set. In case you were wondering, he looks entirely different with the hat off!
And now…onto the reason why we were all there in the first place: Martina.
The pre-show music before Martina went on was a dance remix medley of some of her songs. It was a strange intro, and I kept waiting for the Cher song ‘Believe’ to start, because the remix used the same rhythm and drum track. I soon realized why this was the intro, because the remix track would morph into the introduction to her song ‘Ride’. It made for a nice transition, albeit one that was unexpected.
Martina elevated on a lift to center stage, and looked stunning. [Fashion report: She wore a sequined blouse, very tight leather pants and very high heels. Pics will be added to the review soon!] I had heard a lot from Eddie about how great a live vocalist Martina is, so I was expecting a lot. Thankfully she did not disappoint. Once she got to the crescendo in ‘Ride’, hit the note and held it, I knew it was gonna be all I had hoped.
Martina’s stage includes ten high-definition video screens of varying size, used to create a backdrop of live shots or video montages. It was proof that, even though this is a ‘country’ show, the production takes all of its cues from rock tours: Lots of effects, screens, confetti, [hmmm…I wonder where they got that idea from?] and one show-stopping prop.
The moment I had waited for, one I had known about since the tour began in November but kept quiet about and never spilled to Eddie, was when Martina took a seat on a huge blue half-moon as it elevated over the stage, past the stage and then over the crowd before resting behind the soundboard in the middle of the arena. It was a spectacle that any KISS fan would be proud of and hard pressed to top. She sang ‘Concrete Angel’ as she ‘flew’ above the crowd, the landing of the showpiece timed perfectly with the conclusion of the song.
From the mini-stage behind the soundboard, she waved to the fans way in the back and up top and sang ‘Anyway’ and ‘Love Is The Only House/Blessed’. Then, she quickly darted behind the soundboard and under the floor for a quick costume change while the band played an extended intro to ‘This One’s For The Girls.’ I fully expected her to run from one end of the arena to the other – under the floor and stage and then ‘magically’ reappear onstage to sing ‘This One’s For The Girls’ but, she surprised me again. Martina appeared, this time in front of the soundboard, at floor level! Not too far away from me and Eddie at all! She then walked the length of the floor from the soundboard to the stage steps, shaking hands, waving and taking gifts fans had made for her, all the while singing one of her signature tunes. It was a moment that drove home the special connection that country fans and artists have with one another and how much each needs the other, even if it appears a bit dangerous to get out and ‘press the flesh’ of the fans. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Like I said, the show was full of spectacle, but before I wrap this up, I must mention what was the absolute highlight of the night for me: Before the moon prop made its appearance, Martina and her band did a pair of acoustic songs. One was the Kris Kristofferson classic ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ and that was followed by my favorite song from her latest album, a sad love song called ‘I’m Trying.’ Even with the spectacle, it really was all about her voice, pure and simple. The props were nice but, had the show been simply her band playing acoustic behind her for 90 minutes while she belted out songs, it would have impressed just as much.
The only head-scratching puzzling moment of the night came when the encores were over and I realized that she wasn’t going to play ‘I Just Call You Mine’, perhaps her biggest crossover hit. I don’t know why it was dropped, and I hope it’s back in the show when she comes to Richmond. Even so, the show was amazing and well worth the Herculean effort Eddie had to make to get us there.
Lastly, thanks again to Ray, Tammy, Danny, Maverick, Brian and Mary, Tucker for letting us use her van, my mom for understanding why we had to go, even though she thought we were crazy…and most importantly thanks to Eddie for everything.
This one was memorable for many things…and we have many more shows to see this year!
Set lists from Wikipedia, with some edits made by me to reflect the actual set list:
1. “I Got My Game On”
3. “Songs About Me
4. “I Wanna Feel Something”
5. “All I Ask For Anymore”
6. “Marry for Money”
8. “Rough & Ready”
9. “You’re Gonna Miss This”
10. “Hot Mama”
11. “Ladies Love Country Boys”
12. “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”
13. “Muddy Water”
14. “Keep On”
“When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues”
“My Baby Loves Me”
“Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong”
“Whatever You Say”
“Lean On Me”
“Help Me Make It Through the Night”
“Love’s The Only House”/”Blessed”
“This One’s For The Girls”
“You’re Not Leaving Me”
“A Broken Wing”
“Livin’ On A Prayer”