Spendin’ a little time in concert with country troubadour Clint Black
A neo-traditional country singer who proudly wears pop, rock, and soul influences on his sleeve, Clint Black continues to regale millions of fans. With numerous No. 1 singles under his belt that are still in rotation today, including “Burn One Down”, “When I Said I Do”, “Like The Rain”, and “One Emotion”, Black is also an outstanding songwriter and top notch guitarist.
The New Jersey-born cowboy has increased his touring schedule to nearly 100 annual shows. Visit the singer’s official website for complete tour details. In case you have never seen Black live, the following review is the ultimate concert snapshot. The incredible musician is undoubtedly a natural entertainer.
With so much success, one might think Black would coast on his past triumphs. However, that was certainly not the case as he took the stage on June 13, 2009, at Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia. Performing for one hour and 45 minutes, the setlist featured a wide variety of his greatest hits along with choice album cuts. Only two songs, “Spend My Time” and “Been There”, were written and recorded after 1997.
The audience was a hybrid of young and old, with original fans bringing their children, thus keeping Black’s music potent for future generations. One gentleman drove three and a half hours from Statesboro to hear Black, bringing his family along, demonstrating the wide appeal of Black’s music.
Although a hot and steamy South Georgia night, excitement was in the air from the beginning notes of “The Shoes You’re Wearing” [№1, 1998]. His wife, actress Lisa Hartman-Black, who he’s been happily married to since 1991, wasn’t in attendance, “because she heard it was hot down here.”
Often playing lead guitar, Black was the consummate performer, providing welcome banter and funny anecdotes after each song, including a charming story about his dad telling him at age 22 that he wasn’t old enough to write a country song. That prompted Black to pen “Nothing’s News” [№3, 1989].
“A Better Man,” the musician’s first single and “the one that started it all in 1949” he joked, came soon after. It is amazing to realize his first single reached №1, a rare feat for any artist in any music genre. On several songs Black demonstrated his prowess on the harmonica, including “Put Yourselves in My Shoes” [№4] and “One More Payment” [№7, both 1990]
Throughout the show, several songs seemed to fit the mood of the evening, such as “Summer’s Comin’” [№1] and “Like the Rain” [№1]. Black kidded after “Nothin’ But the Taillights” that it was so hot the band had to cut out its wardrobe changes and dance numbers.
He then mentioned that singer Tanya Tucker asked his longtime songwriting partner, lead guitarist and bandleader Hayden Nicholas, a simple but effective question one day. “Why don’t y’all write a song about me?”, she blurted out. Of course, Black then kidded that weren’t going to play it, and they segued into the un-related honky-tonk of “Tuckered Out” [No Time to Kill, 1993].
As the fiddle’s plaintive cries signaled the song’s conclusion, the band exited the stage about midway through the show, leaving Black solely by himself, except for a stool and acoustic guitar.
“This is how it used to be before I had a record deal, just me, my guitar, and a bartender,” he admitted. The majority of the crowd sat silently as Black played his heart out on songs that influenced him as a young musician, especially “Time of the Preacher” by Willie Nelson.
Acknowledging his appearance at Wild Adventures two summers earlier, Black prefaced Nelson’s song by telling those concert-goers who saw him then to not give away the song’s title. He then went on a short monologue, relating to the crowd a story that happened back in the ’90s when he presented an honor at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Los Angeles.
“On that evening, a big security guy from Willie’s staff said he would like me to stop by Willie’s bus before the award presentation. I obliged, and as I entered Willie’s bus, I couldn’t see him. There was smoke everywhere. I assumed Willie must have been burnin’ ‘toast’. Willie slowly emerged from the haze and offered me some. I politely said no, but by the time I presented that award, I was ‘toast’” [laughs].
The band, the majority of whom have supported Black onstage and in the studio for years, emerged soon after, joining their maestro to continue the sit-down, acoustic segment. Dan Kelly’s jaunty fiddle breaks and Dane Bryant’s piano often accompanied many of the numbers.
He then spotted yours truly on the front row, writing feverishly. “Are those chord notations?,” Black admonished. This writer turned beet red as the singer announced that a “music journalist” was in the building. Prolonging the pain a bit longer, Black ad-libbed that “we’ve strategically placed five mistakes throughout the show for you to find.”
When the band’s acoustic segment settled in, Black sang “Spend My Time,” his final Top 20 hit thus far. “That was the first song Hayden and I wrote after we became dads,” he noted. The final all-acoustic song of the segment, “Something That We Do,” was especially sentimental, with Black saying that “we should treat love as a verb instead of a noun. I had to get my dictionary to see what verb and noun meant, too.”
The band then ended the acoustic segment by performing “Been There,” a Top 5 hit originally performed as a duet with Steve Wariner that got the crowd on its feet dancing to the rhythm.
All too soon, it was time for the encore, as Black performed his final original song of the evening: “We Tell Ourselves” [№2 C&W, 1992]. Much of the crowd left their seats and headed towards the stage during this performance, dancing, clapping, and singing along as best they could. A friendly brunette tried to help me find my dancing shoes, but it was enough trouble just nodding my head and tapping my feet.
A surprise cover, Steely Dan’s “Josie,” was the penultimate number. Black left center stage and took his place behind the drums, providing a solid backbeat throughout the song. Rhythm guitarist Bryan Austin duly handled lead vocals, showing some considerable chops with a saxophone solo.
Disappointment, along with excitement, filled the air as Black left the drums and took center stage, sans guitar, beginning his cover of “Desperado” by the Eagles, since the majority of the crowd knew it was the last song of the night. He successfully conveyed the longing and emotion found within the song’s refrain, reminiscent of Don Henley’s original version.
Black and his band received a raucous standing ovation for their performance. As the band took a bow, two pretty blonde girls threw a University of Georgia cap Black’s way. He bent down and put it on his head for a few seconds, the crowd reacting wildly and the girls looking incredulously, screaming in unison, “Oh my god, he put in on his head!”
One later confessed how her parents raised her on Black’s music, and she was now in the process of converting her boyfriend. With fans like those, it is highly unlikely Black will have to look for another line of work anytime soon.
Clint Black Setlist, June 13, 2009, Wild Adventures Theme Park, Valdosta, Georgia
- “The Shoes You’re Wearing” [No. 118 POP, No. 1 C&W, Nothin’ But the Taillights, 1997]
- “A Good Run of Bad Luck” [No. 1 C&W, No Time To Kill, 1993]
- “State of Mind” [No. 102 POP, No. 2 C&W, No Time To Kill, 1993]
- “Nothing’s News” [No. 3 C&W, Killin’ Time, 1989]
- “Killin’ Time” [No. 1 C&W, title cut of 1989 LP]
- “A Better Man” [No. 1 C&W, Killin’ Time, 1989]
- “Summer’s Comin’” [No. 1 C&W, One Emotion, 1994]
- “Like the Rain” [No. 1 C&W, Greatest Hits, 1996]
- “Put Yourselves in My Shoes” [No. 4 C&W, title cut of 1991 LP]
- “Nothin’ But the Taillights” [No. 116 POP, No. 1 C&W, title cut of 1997 LP]
- “Tuckered Out” [No. 74 C&W, No Time To Kill, 1993]
- “Live and Learn” [Killin’ Time, 1989]
- “Time of the Preacher” [live only; Willie Nelson cover]
- “Straight from the Factory” [Killin’ Time, 1989]
- “Spend My Time” [No. 102 POP, No. 16 C&W, title cut of 2004 LP]
- Band Intros
- “One More Payment” [No. 7 C&W, Put Yourself in My Shoes, 1991]
- “Something That We Do” [No. 76 POP, No. 2 C&W, Nothin’ But the Taillights, 1997]
- “Been There” [No. 44 POP, No. 5 C&W, D’lectrified, 1999]
- “We Tell Ourselves” [No. 2 C&W, The Hard Way, 1992]
- “Josie” [Steely Dan cover never performed in the studio; Bryan Austin on lead vocals, Black on drums]
- “Desperado” [No. 54 C&W, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, 1993]
- Hayden Nicholas: lead guitar / Black’s songwriting partner since 1989
- Bryan Austin: rhythm guitar / saxophone / backing vocals
- Jake Willemain: bass guitar
- Dick Gay: drums
- Dane Bryant: piano [replaced by Lucas Leigh in August 2012]
- Dan Kelly: fiddle
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