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CONCERT REVIEW Toby Keith throws party for Pittsburgh



Published: Sun, September 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Toby Keith thanked the crowd for being part of the largest country concert ever in the Steel City.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

BURGETTSTOWN, Pa. -- There was a party at Toby's place Friday night.

Fortunately, he had lots of room because it was a big one.

Toby Keith, the good-timing, rabble-rousing, flag-waving, self-proclaimed redneck -- and probably the hottest star in country music -- unleashed his show on a fired up crowd at the sold-out Post-Gazette Pavilion.

"Thank you for making this the largest-selling country concert ever in Pittsburgh," the 41-year-old former oil rigger said, tipping his black hat to the crowd.

He has become best known lately for the controversy surrounding his hit single, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," but Keith showed Friday night that he is anything but angry.

Opening video

Before he ever even set foot on the stage, Keith had the audience roaring with laughter at a hilarious video that opened the show. In it, "Toby" the dog gets unleashed and sets out for a walk around his neighborhood.

The joke is that "Unleashed" is the title of Keith's new album.

As the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" plays in the background, Keith's voice is heard as a voice-over, cracking jokes and one-liners.

The wisecracking, irreverent tone of the video set the stage for the show that followed. Keith swaggered along with a wink-and-a-smile attitude, raising his middle finger against the Taliban and his voice against political correctness.

Keith wanted to make sure the people who'd paid to see him had as much fun as he did.

"Where are all the Pittsburgh Steelers fans tonight?" he shouted, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.

Then he launched into "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight," his rowdy anthem about one-night stands. It's also the song that features former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw in the video.

Blue-collar performance

Keith's performance was workmanlike and exciting. Blue-collar, though fun and energetic. There was not a thing flashy about him. Unlike most performers, he was not adorned with gleaming jewelry. No gold neck chain, no Rolex watch. Not even so much as a pinkie ring on his finger.

He geared down from his rascally, boot-stomping mode through a series of ballads, including "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This" and culminating in an emotionally grinding version of "Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You," with his strong baritone voice soaring on the Pittsburgh wind.

Keith seemed caught up in the emotion of "Blue Moon," but quickly shook it off and declared it party time again.

"That's as tender as I'm gonna get all night," he said. And it was.

'Bus songs'

The show took on the feel of "Storytellers," the VH-1 program in which artists tell the stories behind their best-known songs.

But in this case, the songs Keith described and played were what he called "bus songs" -- tunes that were never recorded and usually get sung only on the tour bus.

"Taliban" is a humorous look at life in the Middle East through the eyes of a middle-class camel herder. But the real treat was "I'll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again," a wildly funny song about Keith's meeting with Willie Nelson.

bjackson@vindy.com




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