7 August 2002
Tillamook County Fair, Tillamook, OR
Ronnie Milsap is a real pro. Ronnie has spent over three decades practicing his talent on keyboards and vocals. He played piano on several Elvis Presley sessions in 1969, and first hit the country charts in the mid-1970s. He tours regularly, playing many dates at county fairs and the like.
His six-piece band set up on the infield of a horse track at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds, in the heart of cheese country. But, some comedian opened with a ten-minute routine that included friendly references to Ronnie's blindness since birth, almost as if to forewarn audience members against attempting to wave at the headline act.
Ronnie walked out, escorted by a backing vocalist, to his grand piano, next to his electric piano, and rifled into "Prisoner On This Highway", followed by his top five pop hit of the early 1980s, "Any Day Now".
Given that Mr. Milsap has scored over 40 #1 country hits, selection is of critical importance in terms of pleasing his audience. Accordinly, he performed a medley of several of his hits, beginning and ending with "What A Difference You've Made In My Life". Of course, one disadvantage of such medleys is the relative shortness of some of the audience's favorite hits, such as "Pure Love", "I'm A Stand By My Woman Man", and my favorite, "There's No Getting Over Me".
Other tunes in the lineup: "I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World", "He Got You", "Daydreams About Night Things", "Lost In The Fifties Tonight", "It Was Almost Like A Song". The band put down their instruments in the middle of the set for a doo-wop interlude that included "Come Go With Me".
R.M. impressed me the most in the early 1980s by successfully crossing over from the country charts to the pop American Top 40, five times. Ronnie ended this evening's set with his first strong nudge into pop, "Smokey Mountain Rain", and his hard-rocking "Stranger In My House".
After "America The Beautiful", Mr. Milsap crossed completely over into rock territory with "Honky Tonk Women".
I think every artist has something unique to offer, and usually it's the unique combination of his/her influences. Ronnie's combination includes country, gospel, R&B, rock, and pop. What makes his show so great is his dedication to perfection, and his strong voice.
[***1/2] - Steven T.
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