Martina McBride in Concert – Chicago

by Michael Rampa

martina-mcbride_jan2015Martina McBride was once dubbed the “Celine Dion of country music.” For those expecting to see the diminutive performer deliver her signature sweet ballads were likely surprised after “Wild Angels” only three songs in as the show morphed into a full throttle funk/rock hybrid. McBride is touring in support of “Everlasting,” an R&B/soul covers collection. The album is not particularly exciting. But what it lacks in luster is more than compensated for by the energy and production on this tour.

In addition to a full horn section straight out of the 70s funk era and a trio of Motown backup singers who could have easily taken lead, guitarist Greg Foresman channeled his inner Jimmy Page and put on an occasional shred fest on numbers like “Love’s The Only House.” He even threw in a few bars of “Dazed and Confused.”

McBride’s performance style usually mirrors her subdued staging. She has transitioned into to a much more active performer this time around with lots of dancing, crowd interaction and even a harmonica solo.

The typical highlight of the Kansas native’s 120 minute show is the one-two knockout punch of “A Broken Wing” and Independence Day.” But when she and her backup singers ripped into a funky foot stomping rendition of the Etta James classic “In The Basement,” mid set (a powerful duet with Kelly Clarkson on the album) followed by a crushing of Pink’s “Perfect” it was the clear the audience would not have to wait for the big voiced signature ballads to witness the best numbers of the evening.

She gave a shout out to her house sound tech and husband, John, on their 27th anniversary here in Merillville, IN

Her fan base is as devoted as they come. This show was one Londoner’s ninth trip “across the pond” to see the 48 year-old. McBride was clearly moved to tears several times by an adoring crowd that gave a standing ovation after every song. She expressed her appreciation by coming out for an unscheduled fourth encore. “Looks like it’s just going to be one of those nights, y’all.” “I can’t believe it’s taken us so long to get here, but we’re sure as hell coming back.”

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