AUTHOR: HYNUM

HED:Country stars shine

By Rick Hynum

Daily Journal

Lasers, gigantic video screens and screaming guitars brought a near-sellout crowd of 8,400 to its feet Saturday night as country superstars Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn kicked off their Tupelo Coliseum appearance in New Country style.

Amid whirling, flashing lights and psychedelic effects, the trio descended from the rafters in an elevator-like vehicle that deposited them at the center of the circular stage. In a scorching, high-energy rendition of "Travelin' Band," the three stars split up and roamed the stage for their opening number, playing to every seat in the house.

As McEntire launched into her hit single, "Why Haven't I Heard From You?," Brooks & Dunn made their getaway back up to the rafters, and McEntire commanded the stage for more than an hour in a performance that featured classic favorites as well as brand-new material.

McEntire frequently worked the stage alone, with her band at the side of the stage. For several numbers, musicians and vocalists joined her onstage and delivered rousing guitar and saxophone solos.

"Reba McEntire is the best there is, no doubt about it," said Larry Gailor, a disc jockey and board technician for Wizard 106 who catches every C&W act in town. "Brooks & Dunn are No. 1, too, Entertainers of the Year and everything. They're just awesome."

"The stage is the biggest stage I've ever seen. The mechanics of it is awesome."

With two major headlining acts in one show, fans got meat-and-potatoes country music without an intermission. Brooks & Dunn rejoined McEntire for the close of her act, then tore into a blistering set of their own.

For their trademark "Boot Scootin' Boogie," the duo grabbed a woman out of the crowd for an onstage dance that raised the audience to its feet.

The show culminated with another pair of numbers featuring both acts on the stage and a powerful dose of lighting effects.

Susan Higgins of Tupelo said she came primarily to see Brooks & Dunn, but wasn't the least bit disappointed by Reba's performance.

"She puts on a heck of a show," Higgins said.

McEntire, a multiple Grammy winner, is the best-selling female artist in country music history. Brooks & Dunn are the reigning CMA and ACM Entertainers of the Year and have been recognized by the Recording Industry Association of America as the third most successful duo in history, behind Simon & Garfunkel and Hall & Oates.

The barn-burner tour kicked off in Memphis Feb. 28 and will roll through 85 cities.

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