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By Jacqueline Monahan
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Country Superstars Tribute Moves to Golden Nugget’s Gordie Brown Showroom

If entertainer eye contact is what you’re craving, the members of the Country Superstars Tribute will focus their baby blues (and browns) on you like you’re an old friend.  In fact, the ensemble of talented performers treats the whole audience like family, frequently picking out some lucky visitor to receive an entire song’s worth of attention.

When that’s Brooks and Dunn or Willie Nelson, the result is an up close and personal experience to remember.  Okay, so maybe they’re not the actual stars, but that doesn’t mean they’re not loaded with star quality.
 
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Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn
The Talented Cast of Country Superstars Tribute
 
The show begins with a patriotic video that depicts scenes from small town USA, set to the popular Rodney Atkins tune “These are My People.” Saluting policemen, firemen, farmers, military personnel, America’s heartland, kids, and pets, it set the tone for the rest of the show, complete with scenes of an American eagle and U.S. flag.

Country performers and their fans don’t hesitate to express love of God and country. There’s no pretense to this genre of music, and even if you’re not a fan, chances are you’ll be moved by the sincerity.  And then there’s that smokin’ hot band.

At 90 minutes, the show moves swiftly.  Superstar duo Brooks and Dunn (Leonard Quenneville and Ron Keel) started the evening’s hand clappin’ foot stompin’ entertainment with their rendition of “Play Something Country” followed by “Red Dirt Road.”
 
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Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn
Quenneville and Keel as Brooks and Dunn
 
 The pair introduced Tim McGraw (Adam Tucker) wearing the familiar black leather cowboy hat and skin-tight jeans.  Grabbing the audience vocally with “Real Good Man,”  Tucker performed several of McGraw’s biggest hits, including an abbreviated but heartfelt “Live Like You were Dying” and finishing up with his smash hit and eternal crowd-pleaser “I Like It, I Love It.”

 

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Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn
Adam Tucker as Tim McGraw

Quenneville and Keel returned as Brooks and Dunn to sing the duo’s remake of the B.W. Stevenson classic “My Maria” and an extraordinarily moving version of the faith-based song “Believe.”  Keel has a strong, pure vocal style that can hold a note for an impressive length of time, or snap it into a country-rock tempo that gets the crowd energized to the point of hoots and hollers of approval.

When Willie Nelson (Roy Hammock) took the stage, his remarkable likeness to the braided, bandanna-bedecked singer made it easy to believe.  A bit more full-bodied than Nelson, Hammock’s waist-length braids are his own, and they just touch his belt.  The black Jack Daniels t-shirt, red bandanna and acoustic guitar, combined with Hammock’s Willie-inspired, mellow voice wailed and crooned through Whiskey River,” “You Were Always on My Mind” and of course, “On the Road Again.” Hammock is a good ol’ boy, skillful in channeling the superstar’s spirit and the crowd let him know it.


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Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn
Roy Hammock as Willie Nelson

Then it was time for a good ol’ gal.  Reba McEntire (Corrie Sachs) took the stage, a tiny red-haired pixie that made you look twice to make sure she was indeed a tribute artist.  Her first song, the sassy “Fancy” drew the audience into the fiery vocals.  Sachs followed up with “Strange” and “Gone,” each song embraced by the audience enthusiastically.  She picked out a male audience member to sing to for “Why Haven’t I Heard From You Lately?”

 

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Photo credit: John Hardin 
Reba (Corrie Sachs) and Gang

 

Sachs was joined by Keel in a duet, “If You See Him/Her” that highlighted the romantic side of country music before Brooks and Dunn took the stage for a last volley of songs including “Little Country Girl” featuring audience participation.  This was followed by their seminal hit “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” complete with a demonstration as the duo showed off with a shuffle of their own boots across the stage.

For “Only in America” Brooks (Quenneville) exchanging his electric guitar for a red, white, and blue U.S. flag version.  The entire cast assembled for this number, but had one last surprise up their flannel sleeves as they broke out into the upbeat “Viva Las Vegas” for a rousing finale.

The superb band featured the show’s  Musical Director, Joe Spraker on keyboards, a straw-hat wearin’ Roger Xavier on lead guitar,  Mike Batchelder on bass guitar, Johnny Douglas on rhythm guitar, Harvey Sharp on pedal steel guitar and Mike Tucker on drums. All assist with vocals and harmony as well and appear more Rock than Country. The hard-driving rhythms bear this out and translate into vigorous hand-clapping and periodic “hoots and hollers” from the good ol’ boys and gals, always an indication of a good time.
 
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Photo credit: John Hardin
Having Fun is Part of the Show
 
It’s a rotating show, which means that future performances could include Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, or Wynonna Judd.  Brooks and Dunn and Willie Nelson always show up – you just never know who’s coming with them – and that’s part of the fun.

Standout performer Ron Keel as Ronnie Dunn dominated the stage and the show with his dynamic presence.  He transcends his character with a personal charisma that mesmerizes audiences.  For me, Keel’s exciting stage persona is the jewel in The Country Superstars Tribute crown.  Every one of the performers excels, but Keel is in a class of his own.
 
 
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Photo credit: John Hardin
The After Party
 
An after-party was held at Gold Digger’s and Tim McGraw was seen in the buffet line right near the barbecued beef sandwiches and buffalo chicken egg rolls.  Members of the show were on hand to accept well-deserved kudos from members of the media.
 
 
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 Photo credit: John Hardin
Tucker Tucks In

If you’re looking for a way to get your heart pumpin’ and your boots stompin’, the Country Superstars Tribute delivers the goods with all of the joy, the fun, and the hard driving talent that makes you forget that it’s a tribute show.  These guys are the real deal.


For further information and show schedule:
http://www.countrysuperstarstribute.com

 












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