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Clay Walker at Billy Bob's, March 15, 2008

Clay Walker at Billy Bob's - click to view the entire galleryIf you're a country music fan and you haven't yet been to a Clay Walker concert, you missed an excellent opportunity Saturday Night. This native Texan (born in Beaumont, TX in 1969) played Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth to a packed house. Although he regularly sells out 60,000-seat concert venues (he had been in Houston the night before), Clay is more than equipped to connect with the crowd in a smaller setting, which illustrates his impressive versatility.

By his own admission, he prefers the intimacy of a smaller venue, and judging by the audience's reaction at Billy Bob's, this is clearly one of his strong points. He immediately engaged the audience and interacted with them throughout the entire show. The audience loved him, too! They appeared to know every word of his songs. Throughout the night, when he pointed the mike to the audience for their participation, nearly everyone responded right on cue. Among the crowd favorites were Fall, This Woman and This Man and Fore She Was Mama. Although diagnosed with MS in 1996, Clay hit the ground running and rarely let up over the 90 minute – plus performance. He clearly enjoys the crowd and is having as much fun and the fans are.

Another strong point is his voice, which is tailor-made for country music. It's smooth, strong and clear, exhibiting the vocal versatility so critical for this musical genre. I'm more of a rock guy, but even I know that country music requires the singer to move rapidly between notes and even registers, and Clay does so seamlessly. In fact, his singing overshadows his guitar-playing to the point where his guitar actually seems to be more of a prop than a contributing instrument. When he stops strumming it during a song, I don't “miss” the guitar. It seemed more of a vehicle for him to flick guitar picks into the audience, than a necessary part of the mix. Not unlike the “clown car” at the circus, Clay's guitar seems to produce an infinite stream of these crowd-pleasing picks as collectibles, eagerly snatched up by grateful fans. Clay's guitar, however, was musically superfluous.

For the most part, the sound mix was good, and perhaps I'm the only one who would care, but I wish the drummer hadn't been behind a plexiglas cage. No one understands better than I the motivation to keep drummers in cages (and often it has nothing to do with absorbing the sound!), but the downside is that some of the high-end “sparkle” is missing. Being percussively muted didn't impact the quality of the music, though, and from a performance standpoint, the band was, as nearly as I could tell, flawless. If they made a mistake, it certainly wasn't evident to this reviewer, and, as a musician myself. I'm the kind of guy who listens for that kind of thing.

If you're not yet a fan of Clay Walker, (or if you are a fan but missed the concert) you can change all that by going to Clay Walker's website where you can sign up for email updates – and not miss another concert.

Review by Kent Matthew, staff writer

Click on the photo for the full gallery.

   
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