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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dancin’ Duo The New Spokane Arena Allows Brooks & Dunn To Show Off Their Strong, Crowd-Pleasing Sound

Brooks & Dunn Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Arena

Yeah, sure, Brooks & Dunn were great, but let’s cut straight to the $62 million question.

Is the Spokane Arena a good place to catch a concert?

The people in my section sure thought so.

“You can sure hear the music better than in the old Coliseum,” said a middle-aged country fan behind me.

We were in a good place to judge - about halfway up one side. But even when I wandered all the way to the back of the Arena, I could distinguish the bass line better than I ever did in the old Coliseum, and the lyrics of the songs were reasonably distinguishable, dependent more on the articulation (and twang) of the singers than on the acoustics of the building.

The only echo I noticed came at the high end of the spectrum. At one point, I thought I was hearing the people in the far horseshoe clapping time on the back beat, but then I realized - it was the echo of the snare, bouncing off the far horseshoe.

Even Ronnie Dunn registered his opinion.

“I think this place was made for country music,” he shouted.

With a crowd of 8,500, it was bigger than any crowd that could have crammed into the Coliseum, although short of the 10,000 sellout mark. This was a thoroughly enjoyable country show, featuring three-plus hours of music and plenty of flash and spectacle.

Brooks & Dunn’s stage had a Monument-Valley-at-sunset look to it, and at one point an inflatable cow skull with headlights for eyes came rearing up over the back of the stage. No wonder the crew members call this tour “Moo-tallica.”

I liked Brooks & Dunn live better than I like them on CD. Their show minimizes their weaknesses - songs that rarely go beyond the well-plowed country cliches - and plays to their strengths - good musicianship and high-energy stage presence.

Dunn is the tall, dignified half of the group, surveying the stage like a Confederate captain. Brooks is the wild Cajun, running up onto the ramps, pushing the hat over the eyes of the steel guitar player, and ending songs with Pete Townshend-like windmill chords.

The big crowd-pleasers were the rockin’ numbers, like the opener, “Little Miss Honky Tonk.” My favorite part of the show was what you might call the “Man” medley: Upbeat versions of “Brand New Man” and “Hard Workin’ Man” done one right after the other.

But the softer ballads were also effective, especially Brooks’ “Silver and Gold,” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone,” both more pensive songs from their “Waitin’ On Sundown” album.

The two opening acts were almost as impressive. Wade Hayes weighed in with a hard-rockin’ opening set which proved he is a legitimate Alan Jackson-type star.

Faith Hill has a strong countrysweet voice. In her hands, Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” was effectively redone as a country shuffle. However, it was her beauty queen looks and her skin-tight blackcat pants that really got the crowd going. The two cowboys sitting next to me spent her entire set sending up animal-like howls of appreciation.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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