Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Big & Rich get intimate in Abbotsford

The RunnerOnline Edition: September 27, 2011 | Print Edition: Volume 4, Issue 3

View slideshow in full screen for captions and image information.

Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson know how to have one tailgatin’, J.D. drinkin’, hell of a time.

The newly reunited crossover country duo and the redneck woman brought the Xtreme Muzik Tour on Thursday to Abbotsford, our appropriately nicknamed City in the Country.

They hauled their tour buses up from Nashville to the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre for a crowd of about 2,000 people.

But despite the turnout, they turned up the volume and turned the hockey arena into an intimate venue. Anyone who no-showed or didn’t buy tickets missed out on a surreal atmospheric experience. The sound in the centre was top-notch, and the bass from the speakers produced enough wind to blow up the miniskirts of the women in the front row.

I’ll admit this to all these Canadian ladies. Here’s my confession: ‘Like a virgin.’

John Rich

The co-headliners started the night with their brand new collaborative single, “Fake I.D.”, getting the floor-seated cowboys and cowgirls standing up in their boots. Wilson, with her torn jeans and southern sexiness, sang “Here for the Party” and made sure everyone was here to party.

“Here’s to good times, good friends and good backyard country music!” said Wilson before taking a swig of Tennessee whiskey from the onstage bar.

“Kids, don’t try this at home, we’re professionals.”

Big Kenny’s rock ‘n’ roll stage presence and John Rich’s traditional twang lent their alternate musical styles to “Comin’ to Your City” and their first single, “Wild West Show”.

Wilson got the female fans rodeo rowdy with her 2010 album’s title track, “I Got Your Country Right Here” and “Homewrecker”. She then toned it down with an acoustic cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Angel from Montgomery”. Many slow danced and raised their plastic cups of beer in salute to the ‘70s ballad.

Big & Rich kept the lights low for their country wedding song, “Lost in This Moment” before bringing the six foot five inch Cowboy Troy onstage for the energetic “Love Train”.

Wilson came back with the blue-collar anthem, “Work Hard, Play Harder”, and turned up the Abbotsford heat with Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded”.

While the co-headliners took a break, the backing band performed a classic rock medley that included Rush’s “YYZ”, Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever”, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, and AC/DC’s Oi!-inciting “T.N.T.”

Troy performed “I Play Chicken with the Train”, and Wilson excited the crowd with “All Jacked Up”. Big & Rich did a few brief covers, including Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and Don McLean’s “American Pie”.

“I’ll admit this to all these Canadian ladies,” said Rich. “Here’s my confession: ‘Like a virgin,’” as he started Madonna’s 1984 smash.

Then the song everyone was waiting for: “Save A Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”. If anybody had any beer left, they downed it before the first chorus for a drunken sing-along.

They closed the concert with an encore that included Wilson’s breakthrough hit, “Redneck Woman” and a collective performance of “The Ballad of Big & Rich”.

Nobody left the arena unimpressed; all four performers put on a stadium-quality show for the unexpectedly small crowd, and they can bet their next trip up north will be sold out.

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