All about the music: Fans prepare to show appreciation at upcoming Blake Shelton concert

Friday, January 28, 2011
Rachael Stephens, top, Amber Jones, left, and Shellee Cowgur are making posters and T-shirts for the upcoming Blake Shelton concert. (Fred Lynch)

A Blake Shelton song drifted out of Shellee Cowgur's phone as she and two friends arranged stencils on a poster board. The girls were making signs for Shelton's Feb. 5 performance at the Show Me Center. They've also ordered custom T-shirts for the occasion.

Shelton will play at the Show Me Center as part of his "All About Tonight" tour, and Cowgur, Rachael Stephens and Amber Jones, all from Southeast Missouri, are making it their mission to show their love for Shelton and his opening acts.

The girls will wear the T-shirts and hold posters at the concert, but it's not the first time they've stepped up to show their support for country artists. The three best friends attend about 50 concerts a year.

"We have our favorites that we do," Cowgur said. "Locash Cowboys is our absolute [favorite.] If they're anywhere within 300 or 400 miles, we're there."

Cowgur said they like to follow several artists -- Jake Owen, Jason Michael Carroll, Shelton, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, among others. Between the three of them, the girls have seen Shelton about 16 times.

"Usually someone is opening for somebody we know, and we like them and find one of their shows to see," she said.

Jones said the good times keeps the group going to concerts.

"Hearing the songs live and seeing how [the artists] interact with their fans," she said. "Just going and having a good time with your friends or boyfriend; that's what we love."

Jones has been a fan of Shelton since his debut single, "Austin," came out in 2001.

"The first time I saw him was when he was here with Miranda Lambert," she said.

Shelton performed with Lambert in Cape Girardeau in October 2008 as part of their dual tour. The couple got engaged in 2010.

Shelton was named the CMA's 2010 Male Vocalist of the Year, and is touring in support of a year of releases, including two EPs, "Hillbilly Bone" and "All About Tonight," and his November album release, "Loaded: The Best of Blake Shelton." This greatest hits compilation features seven No. 1 songs among the 15 songs Shelton fans know and love.

Shelton's current hit is "Who Are You When I'm Not Lookin'" from the "All About Tonight" EP, and all of his singles since 2007 have peaked in the top 10.

The "All About Tonight" tour is Shelton's first solo headlining tour, and the show in Cape Girardeau will feature supporting acts Easton Corbin and The Band Perry.

The Band Perry has been nominated for Top New Artist for the 2011 ACM Awards, and has recently performed on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," as well as hitting the road with Shelton. This group features three siblings -- Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry -- and has roots in southern Alabama.

Easton Corbin was named Billboard's Top New Country Artist of 2010 and has two No. 1 hits from his self-titled album, "A Little More Country Than That" and "Roll With It."

"I flipped out when I heard Easton Corbin was coming," Cowgur said. "We just went to the ACM taping in Nashville [Tenn.], and Corbin and The Band Perry were both there, so we're pretty excited about the whole show now."

The trio of friends has found many of the musicians accessible.

"I'm excited to see how well they'll do here, with the crowd interaction and everything," Jones said.

Though their history of attending so many concerts might seem fanatical to some, Cowgur said they just want to show their support for what they enjoy.

"We don't look at them as some people do, like 'Oh my, it's Blake Shelton!'," she said. "Yes, it's Blake Shelton, but he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like we do."

When Luke Bryan played the Show Me Center with Jason Aldean last fall, Cowgur, Stephens and Jones got to hang out with his drummer for some time after the show.

"He came over to us, and was like, 'You guys are having so much fun and you made shirts for us. ... Fans like you are why we do what we do,'" Cowgur said.

Shannon Buford, marketing director for the Show Me Center, said Shelton's stage set up is designed to let him interact with the audience more than many concerts that pass through. He said Shelton is one of a breed of performers who really enjoys being involved with his audience, and it tends to bring the audience closer to his music and performance.

"As for the whole scheme of things, Blake puts on an amazing show," Cowgur said. "I've never been to a show where Blake was having a bad day."

Tickets are still available for the "All About Tonight" show and are available at the Show Me Center box office, online at www.showmecenter.biz, all Ticketmaster outlets and by phone at 651-5000. Ticket prices are $32 and $42.

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