Last Night: Toby Keith at Reliant Stadium
Toby Keith. That big galoot.
Thanks to one song that he didn't even play Monday night, Toby Keith is still painted in much of the media as a frothing, flag-waving, rabid right-winger of Nugentesque proportions. In point of fact, he's much too laid-back for all that.
Opening the 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo concert series, Keith kicked politics to the curb to espouse a platform of beer drinking and more beer drinking. He's getting a little long in the tooth to raise much hell anymore, and seems totally comfortable with that. One of Keith's more poignant songs in recent memory is the contentedly nostalgic "Not as Good as I Once Was," which rang 100 percent true Monday.
He came out full-bore Hank Jr. on "American Ride," one of Keith's social studies that cautions listeners to "don't get busted singing Christmas carols." (The rodeo's sound system has improved noticably, to the point that it's now possible to make out both verses and chorus.)
But that was the exception. Keith made an Obamacare crack before "Beers Ago" -- no boos, surprisingly -- but he didn't come to preach. He came to celebrate preachers' daughters, and did so on "God Love Her," one of several songs aided by a robust Stax-style three-man horn section. The free and easy country-soul of "Who's Your Daddy" and "Beers Ago" was among the evening's musical highlights, to go with two two-steps right in a row, "Good as I Once Was" and the Urban Cowboy-ish "I Love This Bar."
Both songs, particularly the latter, counted among the wealth of songs saluting Keith's appreciation of suds; also "I Like Girls That Drink Beer" (hmmm) and "Beer For My Horses." Rejecting the high life for the roadhouse is as strong a theme in Keith's work as patriotism, and he's not blind to the consequences, even if the moody "Hope On the Rocks" was a little bit of a buzzkill all the same.