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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Walker Knows How To Play An Audience

Clay Walker Saturday, March 28, Spokane Arena

Women were everywhere.

Waving, whistling, dancing, screaming, clapping. Doe-eyed.

Though small in stature, Clay Walker is big in the hearts of his mostly female fans, who descended on the Arena Saturday night in packs to gaze on the 28-year-old Texan.

Whenever Walker walked over to one side of the stage or down the middle where it jutted into the crowd, fans jumped out of their seats hoping for a glance and a smile.

The deep-voiced Walker, tightly tucked into his Wranglers and often growling lyrics, sometimes toyed with them, sashaying his hips to an eruption of hoots and hollers. That’d bring a big smile to his face.

He and his seven-man band opened their set with a fine rendition of Walker’s latest No. 1 single, “Rumor Has It,” off his recent album of the same name.

When he sang “Watch This,” another hit on the same album, dozens of camera flashes lit up the darkened hall. The crowd also warmed to another big ballad, “Hypnotize The Moon,” with one woman up front handing Walker a bouquet of red roses. “If I Could Make A Living” spurred an a cappella sing-along of the chorus at the end.

An appreciative Walker kept thanking the crowd all night long, and at one point replied to a fan, “I love you too, honey.”

One of the fun moments of the evening came during “Then What,” at No. 5 on this week’s Billboard country singles chart. Once he launched into the Caribbean-flavored tune, giant beach balls shot into the crowd on the floor. Walker drop-kicked them back when folks bounced them onto the stage. And a “Yo Mon” sign sprang up from the crowd.

Walker, singing his way through a head cold, hit all the high points of his young career, including “Dreaming With My Eyes Wide Open,” “This Woman and This Man” and “Who Needs You Baby.”

During “What’s It To You,” his final song before the encore, Walker bent over to shake some of the dozens of hands held high. Thousands of pieces of paper fell from the ceiling, covering the stage and fans in the front rows. Walker gathered up a couple of bouquets and a small stuffed horse and walked off stage.

Though his mike often hissed between songs and the amp on his acoustic guitar cut out on occasion, these were minor annoyances. The crowd, which filled the lower sections of the partitioned Arena, didn’t seem to mind.

One of the high points of the night came during Diamond Rio’s set. After the six members of the reigning Country Music Association group of the year sat on stools for a couple of songs, percussionist Brian Prout - standing while playing on a set of two small drums, a bass drum and some cymbals - launched into an incredible solo. Then bass player Dana Williams joined in, with sticks flying everywhere but not colliding. Prout then returned to his big kit and both kept hammering away, ending to an ovation of cheers.

Other Diamond Rio highlights: “Walking Away,” lots of guitar pick flicking into the crowd, “Imagine That,” some hip shimmy and shake, “Love A Little Stronger,” Williams autographing a woman’s jean jacket, and the closing number, a sing-along version of their first big hit, “Meet In The Middle.”

Daryle Singletary, backed by a full band of six, opened the concert with a set of traditional country. The Georgian earned an enthusiastic response with solid renditions of his hits “I Let Her Lie,” “Too Much Fun,” “Amen Kind of Love” and his latest, “The Note.”

, DataTimes

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