Toby Keith’s Locked & Loaded Tour
Featuring Eric Church
PNC Arts Center, Holmdel, New Jersey
September 2, 2011
Simply stated, there is no concert like a Toby Keith concert. At one point of my life, country music was not my preferred genre of music. That was, until I heard a few Toby songs. Soon after I bought tickets to my first concert of his. Since then I have seen him a total of 23 times. September 2, 2011 was the 23rd time and it was as good as it once was.
Through his fan club, I was able to win a meet and greet with the rising star, Eric Church. I got into the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ when doors opened and proceeded to the backstage area. My sister and I have noticed that Eric is not big on smiling so when it was my turn to meet him, I told him that I had a bet going with her that he would not smile in the picture with me. As you can see, I won that bet. Eric was humble and gracious and we spoke for a minute or so and I was off to my seat.
We had 15th row center floor seats, which had a perfect view of the stage. Eric came out on stage when the sun was just going down – and he was off and running. Eric Church’s live performances are full of energy – but a different type of energy. He is not the Kenny Chesney type who runs around the stage and is not like Tim McGraw who slowly walks around the stage with a swagger. Instead, he stands at the microphone, signing with incredible passion, and constantly pounds his chest, yells at the crowd, pours beers on himself. He truly has an unique and effective way of getting the crowd ridiculously pumped.
His set was a great mixture of his three albums. It was highlighted by the songs of his new album, Cheif. Songs such as “Drink In My Hand” and “Homeboy” had the crowd signing and dancing along. The tune, “Springsteen” was perfect for the New Jersey crowd who returned the favor with chants of what you would hear at an actual Springsteen show: “Bruuuuuuuuce”.
Eric also sang a great cover of the Hank Williams Jr. classic “Country Boy Can Survive”. The true country fans in the audience sang along word for word, pumping their chests along with Eric. He showed off his banjo skills on the new song “Creepin'”, dabbled in songs that made the ladies happy (“Love Your Love the Most”, “Hell On the Heart”) and ended his set at an energetic high with smoke blasts from behind the stage to one of Eric’s biggest hits, “Smoke a Little Smoke”.
All in all, out of the 23 times I have seen a Toby Keith tour, I think Eric Church has been the best opening act (and that includes the likes of Trace Adkins, Miranda Lambert, Rodney Atkins, Montgomery Gentry, and Joe Nicols, to name a few). He fits in with Toby’s style of music and really gets the energy level high and ready for the Big Dog Daddy to hit the stage.
Toby’s set began as it always does, with a short five minute Ford F-150 commercial. Usually they are pretty humorous, but this year’s was over the top cheesy. This was probably the only part of Toby’s set that I did not enjoy, luckily it was only a few minutes long and the Big Dog hit the stage. He came out to “Bullets In Gun” and never looked back.
The crowd was treated to Toby’s newest single, “Made In America” which has already hit the top 10 on the Mediabase and Billboard charts after only being out on country radio for a few weeks. I have absolutely loved this song since he debuted it at the CMT Awards a few months ago. With all the bravado and swagger that one would expect from Toby Keith, he executed this hit to perfection complete with fire blasts, salutes to the crowd, and his voice hitting the high notes flawlessly.
One thing every fan who comes to a Toby Keith concert knows is you are going to hear the hits. Toby prides himself on singing the songs people know and love. And he has plenty to choose from – “I Love This Bar”, “As Good As I Once Was”, “How Do You Like Me Now” and “Wanna Talk About Me” were all incorporated into the set. However, Toby sang a song that I have never heard him do live before and it absolutely blew me away: “Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You”. His voice thundered through the warm Jersey night to this love song as his deep voice masterfully executed notes both high and low. He had to impress everyone that night as I was left with goosebumps when he finished the song.
For anyone who has not been to a Toby Keith show, the show is a big mixture of party songs, Patriotic Anthems, and good old country songs. There is not letdown and Toby incorporates his great sense of humor into the videos on the big screen as well as a plethora of pyrotechnics that would make Kiss want to go country.
He really shines when he addresses the crowd to salute to all the people who put their lives on the line for us before “Beer For My Horses”. He even gets the crowds laughing during humorous tunes such as “Weed With Willie” and “Get Out of My Car”. Both songs have lyrics dealing with sex and drugs, which mostly every other country singer stays away from in their song content. But, as Toby sees it – its all in good fun so just “sing along if you don’t think you are too cool”.
Toby’s band was really showcased on this night as he let the trumpet and horn section take the front of the stage on numerous songs, such as “God Love Her” and “Who’s Your Daddy”. He even let his backup singer, Mica Roberts, belt out a cover of “Lady Marmalade” which suprisingly fit in well in the middle of the bombastic set.
Of course, the highlight of a Toby Keith show, for any true fan of his, is the encore. In my opinion, I think Toby has the best encore in music today, no matter what genre. After a few minutes of the lights being out and the sold out amplitheatre shouting out deafening chants of “USA, USA…” and “Toby, Toby …” he comes out to sing the emotional ode to our military, “American Soldier”. On this night, he changed the words up a bit and sang the song with the words “American Warrior”. He then gets an American Flag Guitar and dominates the stage to his most infamous song “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue”.
If you are a fan of Toby, like I am, you absolutely love this song. If you do not like him for whatever reason, you probably despise it. But on that night, the 18,000 people in New Jersey all collectively pumped their fist in the air when Toby dropped the line “put a boot in your ass its the American way”. He brought out the friends and family of a fallen Navy Seal for the encore which really pumped even more patriotism into the amplitheatre. Complete with more pyro M-80 blasts and a rain of red, white, and blue confetti, the crowd was treated to a show unlike any other.
I thought both Eric Church and Toby Keith brought their A games on this night and, as always, made it one of the best tours of the year. I cannot wait to see it all over again in two weeks in Hartford, Connecticut. Stay tuned …..
TOBY KEITH SETLIST
1) Bullets In The Gun
2) Just Talkin Bout Tonight
3) Made In America
4) American Ride
5) Whiskey Girl
6) Wanna Talk About Me
7) God Love Her
8) Get Drunk And Be Somebody
9) Blue Moon
10) Somewhere Else
11) Who’s Your Daddy
12) Good As I Once Was
13) I Love This Bar
14) Should Of Been Cowboy
15) Weed With Willie
16) Get Outta My Car
17) Beer For My Horses
18) How Do You Like Me Now
19) Little Less Talk
20) American Soldier (Remix: American Warrior)
21) Courtesy of the Red White and Blue
ERIC CHURCH SETLIST:
1) Before She Does
2) How Bout You
3) Hell On The Heart
4) Sinners Like Me
5) Drink In My Hand
6) Guys Like Me
8) Getting Stoned
9) Love Your Love The Most
10) Lotta Boot
12) Keep On
13) Country Boy Can Survie (Hank Williams Jr. Cover)
14) Smoke A Little Smoke