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Brooks & Dunn ignite red-hot anticipation for Neon Circus tour

| Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus & Wild West Show
  • Brooks & Dunn, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, Keith Urban and Cledus T. Judd.

  • 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

  • $20 to $45.

  • P-G Pavilion, Burgettstown.

  • (412) 323-1919.

  • You wouldn't think 'neon circus' would be code for 'testosterone tour.' But it will be Sunday, when several of country music's he-man heroes accompany Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus & Wild West Show to the P-G Pavilion in Burgettstown.

    The headliners have joined forces with their closest competitors today, the country rock duo Montgomery Gentry, and also formed an alliance with Toby Keith, the Academy of Country Music's current top male vocalist.

    Australian heartthrob Keith Urban will be on hand, and macho comedic relief can be expected from Cledus T. Judd, who is sort of a burly 'Weird Al' Yankovic.

    Taking a cue from George Strait's traveling festival, the Brooks & Dunn tour also brings midway entertainment, such as firebreathers and stilt walkers, for the offstage areas.

    In the months since the concert date was announced, all the stars except Judd have enjoyed Top 10 success:

  • 'Steers & Stripes' is the latest CD from Brooks & Dunn, and the single 'Ain't Nothing 'Bout You' has turned out to be the most successful in the 'Boot Scootin' Boogie' duo's 10-year career.

  • 'I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight,' Keith's ode to miscommunication, is the first release off 'Pull My Chain,' the CD that will hit stores Aug. 28.

  • 'She Couldn't Change Me,' off Montgomery Gentry's sophomore effort, 'Carry On,' promises the duo has staying power.

  • 'Where the Blacktop Ends,' following on the heels of 'But for the Grace of God,' is yet another radio-friendly track from Urban's self-titled debut album.

    For two of these artists, recent CDs have marked a turning point in their careers:


    'Carrying On'
    When a debut album does unbelievably well, the second effort becomes saddled with expectations. Will it establish an up-and-coming act as a bonafide star, as 'Fly' did for the Dixie Chicks• Will it be too similar to the first release, or too much of a departure?


    If these questions are weighing on Keith Urban's mind, he can ask Montgomery Gentry for advice. In May, Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry followed their smash debut, 'Tattoos & Scars,' with 'Carrying On,' a solid disc that's the career bridge they needed.

    It's already provided a Top 10 hit, 'She Couldn't Change Me,' and it expands on listeners' knowledge of who the singers are. The two chose songs that reflect their upbringing - 'My Father's Son'; their marriages - 'Hellbent on Saving Me'; and their philosophy - 'Lucky to Be Here,' which they helped write, and the title track, which establishes a motto: We ain't gonna break, we ain't gonna bend, we're just carrying on.

    And then there's 'Cold One Comin' On,' a standout track about heartbreak that benefits from clever lyrics and the rowdy, country-rock attitude the duo brings to every song, ballads included.

    Montgomery Gentry, currently Brooks & Dunn's closest competition, also provides a contrast. Both duos are country-rock acts, and both consist of singing partners who aren't related. (Montgomery does have a singing brother, John Michael, who has a successful solo career.)

    But the younger duo is, well, younger, and seems rougher. They rock harder. For now, their exploding popularity means they are working harder. To cope with that, they can use the Neon Circus tour to learn from Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn.


    'How do you like me now?!'

    If 'Dream Walkin'' ever pounded through the walls while your neighbor played it over and over again, you know how hypnotizing Keith's music can be. The singer's soothing baritone and the song's melodic hook mesmerized listeners in '97. But Keith, who had given record label Mercury several Top 10 hits since his breakthrough in '93, thought he could do more.

    So in '99, he issued a challenge to Nashville's powers that be. It was a CD on the DreamWorks/SKG label with the defiant title of 'How Do You Like Me Now?!,' and in the liner notes, Keith wrote: 'Some so-called 'music guys' in the industry can't hear a train coming. ... Me & (producer James) Stroud are driving the bad boy, and there is a lot of track ahead.'

    Runaway success has a way of dulling old hurts. Keith's CD yielded big hits, first with the title track and later with 'You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This.' Those triumphs, and the recognition of them, might have softened Keith's disdain toward Music Row.

    When he took the podium in May at the Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony - where he was honored for best album and as best male vocalist - he sweetly twisted some lyrics into an acceptance speech: 'You shouldn't kiss me like this unless you mean it like that.'

    Having the best line of the night, though, can't protect a cowboy from a troublesome bottom line. Keith's attire for the Los Angeles celebrations included low-hung, lace-up pants that matched his hat and jacket - an outfit all-pulled-together for when country comes to town. The problem was that the pants required a good deal of pulling.

    Each time Keith left his seat to clamor onstage and collect an award, he first did some quick tugging to be sure the pants were up to the job.

    The situation provided for humbling moments during Keith's hour of power - sort of a balancing act for a high-wire Neon Circus performer.

    Catherine Artman is a copy editor for The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. She can be reached at (412) 320-7881 or cartman@tribweb.com .



    CDNOW


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