Columbus, OH, Lifestyles Community Pavilion, July 21, 2006

 

Written and photos by: Jason Perlman

 

When Garth Brooks hit the country scene in the late 1980s, he brought a crossbreed of fans as he stretched across the country border and reaches his hands into the rock world and gave both fans a place to belong and get together. Soon after Brooks crossed the border, Shania Twain took a page from Brook's notes and also crossed over, but this time Twain brought a raw, almost sexually charged fan base to the country genre. So when Big & Rich came on the scene, although they too were reaching across the aisle for new fans, Big & Rich went straight for the glam metal days and mixed party rock and country music. Where Brooks was like the Elton John of country music, Big & Rich were like the Poison, bringing bombast of energy, excitement and just a fun, party atmosphere to the country arena. So it was no surprise when Big & Rich took the stage at Lifestyles Community Pavilion in Columbus, OH that confetti guns, pyrotechnics and a Friday night party were in store for the near sold out audience.

 

Big Kenny and John Rich brought with them a stage show good enough for an arena show, and after a few minutes in intro music, Big and Rich strolled out like mobsters walking in their favorite watering hole, with all the confidence and assuredness that they belong exactly where they are. About the only difference would be where the mobsters would make strangers feel unwelcome, Big & Rich gave off an aura of acceptance and embrace.

 

From the first chords of Rich's guitar, the show was a constant parade of showmanship and family-style country rock and roll. Even though Big & Rich may not have been together as a group for that long, Kenny has seen his share of stages and studios both as a solo artist and while in the band Lonestar (before being fired). But those experiences are most likely what makes Kenny such an enjoyable performer. A self-proclaimed 2-time loser, Kenny has finally found success in doing exactly what he wants to do, so his demeanor on stage reflects someone who would rather be doing nothing else than performing songs he and his partner record for themselves.

 

The duo calls its style of playing "music without prejudice," and that is a pretty fair description. Not just in the traditional sense of the word, but Big & Rich pull from all genres of music to create a country sound all their own. Whether it is a touch of gospel, a riff from hair metal or a twang from a hippy named Willie, Big & Rich are breaking new ground much as Brooks did when critics didn't believe his music would last as a crossover.

For near 90 minutes of music from Big & Rich, the fans caught an earful of their favorites from the over-the-top Freak Parade to the dynamic of Jalapeno to the serious 8th of November. Big & Rich proved on stage what they have been trying to prove in record sales, that this is a band with no limitations or barriers. The audience, although mostly in cowboy hats, also had some vintage t-shirts with hip-hugger jeans or short skirts. The melting pot of the crowd would agree that 20 margaritas could be shared between them as well as danced to at the same time. And just when one would think Big & Rich are just about partying, they take a party-sounding tune like Filthy Rich and make a social statement at the same time. Unlike the Dixie Chicks statement, Big & Rich seem to be subtler in their delivery, but just as striking with significance as they are about the working person just trying to make ends meet and smile at some point throughout the day. Perhaps that is why this act is garnering such support and selling so many tickets. Big & Rich take easy to listen to music and perform it in a way where even those who had the worst of days could sit back, enjoy a beverage and smile or maybe even laugh a time or two.

 

Big & Rich fill a much-needed void in the music industry, and that is one of cross pollination. Too often, labels will not take a chance on a band that does not fit nicely into a genre that can be pitched to radio and record stores. So when a band, whether country, hip-hop, metal or whatever can be successful in record sales and concert tickets, it allows room for musical growth of labels and bands, which in turn expands the minds of listeners. So much like the Muzic Mafia it is a part of, Big & Rich are willing to take chances, open up new ears but most importantly, stick it out for the long haul.

John Rich
Big Kenny & John Rich
John Rich
John Rich
Big Kenny
Big Kenny