Martina McBride's soaring voice drives powerful country showing

by Alison Bonaguro
Special to the Tribune

Published September 1, 2008


Before Carrie, Taylor and Jessica, there was one country artist who had the voice, the personality and the looks. She did everything right. And she's still doing it.At Martina McBride's Saturday night show at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, she could've been giving lessons on how to perform live. Her power pipes were the groundwork for the show, but it was her happy-to-be-here attitude that gave the show even more muscle.

Man, can this woman sing. Belting out songs with stamina and poise is her signature, and she didn't disappoint. There wasn't a soft-spoken moment in the 90-minute set. When she sang her own hits such as "When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues," "Broken Wing" and "Anyway," there were times when she made one word last 30 seconds. And when she reached way back to the 1970s for Kris Kristofferson and Bill Withers covers, she threw her soaring voice into those as if they were her own.

"I got a good feelin' about tonight," she said. "Anything can happen." McBride's show wasn't about the kind of predictable fireworks and T-shirt cannons that usually saturate country concerts. Her twists and turns felt more suited to her and her fans. During her newest single, "For These Times," the screen behind her played footage of Chicago fans writing their wishes on a dry erase board: a cure for cancer, no more homework, construction on I-80 to cease.

Because the show wasn't completely sold out, the venue was offering $10 ticket upgrades. So by the time McBride started her set just after 9 p.m., the pavilion was packed tight with her mostly female fan base, although WLS-Ch. 7 sports anchor Mark Giangreco was in the audience, and the cameramen seemed determined to show him repeatedly on the big screen. But the ages and genders in the audience all seemed to blur when McBride was singing, and even when she wasn't. On "Love's the Only House" and "Blessed," she played harmonica. Then, as she wrapped the night with two more early-'80s tunes—"Don't Stop Believin' " and "Hit Me with Your Best Shot"—she said what was so obvious all night long: "I love, love, love singing for you guys."


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