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Tillis’ Talent Rings True Fans Were Treated To An Excellent Band And A Well-Received Country-Pop Repertoire

Jim Kershner Staff Writer

Pam Tillis Friday, April 28, the Opera House

Pam Tillis makes it look easy.

She won over a two-thirds capacity audience with nothing fancier than a bunch of upbeat hit songs done with professionalism.

If it’s so easy, can’t anybody do it? No, and we witnessed a perfect demonstration of that when a radio station contest winner got up on stage to sing the chorus of “Don’t Tell Me What To Do (I’ll Love You Forever If I Want To).” This young woman did a good job, but when Tillis joined in with her ringing voice, it sounded like Itzhak Perlman joining in with Jack Benny. Tillis makes it look easy, because people with immense talent always make it look easy.

Tillis richly deserved her Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year award this year, and her love for country was evident throughout the show. A Nashville baby, she comes by it naturally. Her excellent band includes an outstanding pedal-steel player and a phenomenal young female fiddler.

Tillis’ pop leanings (she tried to make it big in pop before she made it big in country) were also evident Friday night. Sometimes too evident. I could have done without the rockstar posing and big-hair-flinging of her keyboard player and her bass player (“on bass and lead hair,” is how she introduced him).

Tillis, thankfully, is devoid of that kind of posturing. She just steps up to the microphone and sings, occasionally doing a graceful little jig step when the band kicks in behind her. She always appears to be at ease, and self-assured. Because she is so relaxed and comfortable up there, she makes those of us in the audience feel that way, too.

She can afford to be relaxed, because she knows she has so many good, clever, funny, telling songs to sing. Some of the standouts Friday included “(Don’t Cry Over) Spilled Perfume,” “Maybe It Was Memphis,” “Let That Pony Run,” and the three biggest crowd-pleasers, “Shake the Sugar Tree,” “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)” and “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.”

Her version of Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk In the Room,” was also strong.

The show opened with a spirited set by up-and-comer Brian White. His songs were surprisingly infectious, considering his only accompaniment was his own acoustic guitar. Keep an eye on this talented 21-year-old.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Highlight A rowdy version of “Don’t Tell Me What To Do,” with a little help from a friend

This sidebar appeared with the story: Highlight A rowdy version of “Don’t Tell Me What To Do,” with a little help from a friend

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