Country acts display rock 'n' roll energy

Saturday, October 25, 2003

If Emerson Drive and Montgomery Gentry represent the sound of country music's up- and-coming artists, then soon the genre might be indistinguishable from pop and rock.

And if Friday night's concert by the two country acts at the Show Me Center is any indication, then the fans are going to love it.

The crowd at the show only numbered about 2,000, a few hundred lower than organizers had hoped for. But what it lacked in numbers, the crowd made up for in enthusiasm. People stomped their feet, clapped, sang along and even danced as the two country-rock acts blasted through their sets.

From the minute Emerson Drive took the stage, rock 'n' roll energy rolled over the crowd. The band came out to the sound of a engine revving up, growing louder and louder until the unmistakable thump of the bass drum took over with a straight, driving rhythm.

They got the party started, pumping the crowd up with their upbeat, pop/rock infused sound.

Singer Brad Mates interacted with the crowd, enticing them to sing along with him on several songs, including their hit "Fall Into Me" and a new song that Mates taught the fans how to sing right on the spot.

Their blazing cover of the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was the pinnacle of their set, and it was on that song that they reached the height of their hard-driving sound.

The section of the famous country standard in which the devil and his band show Johnny what they've got was dominated by one of the raunchiest guitar sounds that can be made. Simply put, it sounded mean. This break was followed shortly by another song break in which the band launched into part of the classic Led Zeppelin tune "Kashmir." All in all, their performance of this particular song would have pleased even the staunchest rock fan.

Montgomery Gentry added to the raucous party-like atmosphere of the evening with their own brand of rock-infused country. As soon as they took the saloon-style stage (complete with aged wood floors and Jim Beam flags) the whole crowd rose to its feet, giving the band a nice "hell yeah" greeting.

The crunching blues-rock style guitar riffs and heavy drum beat drove Gentry's music into the realm of beer-chuggin', whiskey-sluggin' romp. And MG made no bones about its party attitude, with its black-clad singer using his fingers as devil horns on their outlaw stomps "Bad for Good" and "Ramblin' Man."

Their sound and energetic stage presence kept the show on high-octane, turning the Show Me Center into something like a huge tailgate party.

And what red-blooded country fan doesn't like a good tailgate party?

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