Who: Reba McEntire with Gord Bamford
Where: Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The arena was country strong Tuesday night as legendary singer Reba McEntire brought her distinct brand of music to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
The chatty Nashville resident was the picture of laid-back likability during her Victoria debut. "Y’all are sweet,” McEntire, 58, said to the audience during the first break in an 80-minute set packed full of hit songs. “Thanks for having us back in Canada.”
The audience of 5,140 (big but surprisingly subdued, even up front) got what they paid for, because McEntire and her nine-piece band were in near-perfect form. All the more impressive: This was the first of 11 dates in Canada for McEntire and Co., who were largely free of rust on this night, despite a long layoff from the road.
She opened her set with a quartet of hits, only one of which (1996’s The Fear of Being Alone) hadn’t made it to No. 1 on the charts. She has plenty of material to crow about, indeed. To her credit, the native of Chockie, Okla., paid equal attention to lesser-known songs from her back catalogue.
McEntire gave a short preamble to each one, and blessed as she is with an actor’s ability, the singer made each introduction count.
She had a strong opener to contend with in Lacombe, Alta., country star Gord Bamford, who was a full-service singer on this night. He delivered songs about drinking buddies and farm girls, but also a weeper about losing his brother-in-law.
Every must-have item on the country checklist list was crossed off when it came to Bamford the person and performer.
During the afternoon Tuesday, he met with Jeneece Edroff — namesake of Jeneece Place — to present the local children’s care facility with a cheque for $10,000 on behalf of the Gord Bamford Charitable Foundation.
For the cuddly portion of his set, Bamford continued his karma-friendly winning streak by singing Little Guy, a song about his son, and My Daughter's Father, about his two girls. He brought Brendan from Nanaimo and Jessica from Victoria up on stage for the latter tune, and gave the two youngsters guitars for their efforts.
Bamford gave them one more parting gift before they exited stage left. “I want you to take those guitars and learn every Reba McEntire song you can learn,” he said.
Not a bad slice of advice. Despite Bamford’s best efforts, McEntire proved to be up to any and all comers, including Jennifer Wrinkle, her powerhouse multi-instrumentalist. Wrinkle took on McEntire in the spirited duet, Does He Love You, a song McEntire had sung previously with her soon to be daughter-in-law, Kelly Clarkson (speaking of Clarkson, McEntire did a bang-up job of Because of You, a Clarkson smash hit).
Both singers knocked the song out of the park.
It was a largely error-free night of entertainment, the type of pro show with very few missteps. A few sonic moments of concern popped up here and there (The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia was too shrill, the mix burying McEntire under her back-up singers and electric guitarist), but she has the requisite star power to overcome such obstacles.
As she proved during her encore song, a rock-’em sock-’em cover of Bobby Gentry’s Fancy that she sang in a red-hot dinner dress that matched her hair, no musical stone is unturned when it comes to Reba McEntire.