"Country. Admit it. You love it." That's the new advertising slogan of mainstream country music, managing to be as insulting to fans as it is to the music's grand tradition. Brooks and Dunn don't suffer from that kind of inferiority complex. The hit Nashville duo radiates a quiet confidence, committed to country music for the long, long haul.
At the Blockbuster Pavilion on Friday, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn led their own modern country revival, the "Neon Circus & Wild West Show" tour. Closing a day of rodeo clowns, trick ropers and support acts (Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry and Keith Urban), Brooks and Dunn performed a 75-minute set that was comfortingly self-assured.
Supported by an able eight-piece band, the duo was unafraid to rock up their country, their best songs drifting close to '70s country-rock. That weakness for electric guitars added power to the night, but also led the band on unfortunate tangents, such as the occasional spasm of '80s metal guitar.
More natural were those moments when Brooks picked up an acoustic guitar. He dedicated "You're Going to Miss Me When I'm Gone" to his late friend, race driver Dale Earnhardt. Soon he was joined again by the full band, adding a lush pop melody that surrendered none of the song's core country identity.
Fans swayed in the aisles during the hits, including "Boot Scootin' Boogie," a typically light but rollicking dance tune. Not all the material was as catchy, but Brooks and Dunn finished the night with nothing to apologize for.