LAS VEGAS -- If you were wondering how
The crowd roared, prompting Dunn to reply, "So I'll mix it up."
Indeed he did, visibly loosening up as the show progressed. And the audience grew more responsive as the night went on, too, perhaps because of the generous open-container policy in downtown Las Vegas. Yet, it seemed strange to end the ACM-sponsored night with a duo-less Dunn after starting it with
Of course, they all have a long way to go before breaking even with Brooks & Dunn. For the fans who missed the superstar duo's Last Rodeo tour, Dunn still provides an opportunity to sing along with modern classics like
Astonishingly, the new material stands up to a set list like that. He launched his performance with the autobiographical "Singer in a Cowboy Band" (with a Vegas reference in the first few words), followed by a self-explanatory party anthem, "Let the Cowboy Rock." After confirming that it was OK to shake it up, Dunn forged ahead with "Ain't Nothin' 'Bout You" just before bringing out two female trumpeters to lend a festive mariachi vibe to "How Far to Waco," drawing a significant response from the crowd. They also seemed satisfied with the romantic number, "Your Kind of Love."
But if Dunn could persuade his record label, he would probably choose "Cost of Livin'" as the next single -- and it would be a gamble that would very likely pay off in spades. Dunn said the song doesn't fit neatly into his upcoming solo album, due on June 7 on Sony Music, but no other new song I heard all weekend earned such a passionate response. He was speaking directly to the people when he expressively sang about a determined man willing to work to provide for his family, but with nowhere to find a job. It could be a career song, judging by the obvious cheers and fist-pumping afterwards.
And, yes, Dunn has already heard the skeptical remarks from the industry -- that he's too rich to sing and write about struggling, despite a hardscrabble upbringing in Oklahoma, and that by the time the album is out, the price of gas will be down again (not likely since it's a summer release). Here's hoping this one rises above the fray and proves the naysayers wrong.
Dunn wrapped his main set just before midnight, then encored at 12:01 a.m. with his latest single, "Bleed Red," essentially ushering in a new day in more ways than one. Along with two other upbeat songs, he concluded his late night/early morning with a cover of
Although I didn't notice any ZZ Top impersonators, there was a long list of "celebrities" wandering up and down Fremont Street, including Prince, Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, two members of Kiss, Superman, late-era Elvis, a dolled-up Vegas showgirl, an Aztec warrior and at least three Bret Michaels doppelgangers. Even a
Corbin and Houser, meanwhile, showed their cards as promising artists on the country landscape (with the ACM award nominations to prove it). In between lots of banter, Houser offered his signature hit,
Cover songs proved to be a recurring theme for the new duos. Steel Magnolia dabbled in
Jumping up and down, the JaneDear Girls energized the crowd with Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (which they said they performed at
Taking the stage first, Thompson Square turned to their own upbeat material, along with Katy Perry's "Waking Up in Vegas," and their own debut single (and current No. 1 hit),