Country royalty was present Saturday at Revel as Reba McEntire made her debut at Ovation Hall and proved why she has earned the distinction Queen of Country.
At 57 years old, McEntire’s voice remains as stellar as ever, with her Oklahoma twang and superstar swagger mixed with a Southern charm she displayed through chatting with the audience all night as she talked about her music and 36-year career.
The Country Music Hall of Famer, backed by a talented but not overly showy nine-piece band, kept things relatively simple and straightforward. There were no big video screens, and the light show was pretty subdued. McEntire was all about her voice and music.
The mellow crowd, which stayed seated for most of the nearly 90-minute concert, was appreciative of every song and seemingly more pleased when she joked with them. The movie, Broadway and TV star, who will return to television this fall with a new ABC sitcom, was as comfortable schmoozing with the crowd as she was delivering her impressive catalog of country hits, which includes 26 studio albums and 35 No. 1 singles.
She tried to cover as many of those singles — as well as some new stuff — as best she could, often ripping into medleys that covered as many as five tunes at a time to appease the crowd.
Selling 80 million records worldwide is no shabby accomplishment, and even a noncountry fan could appreciate the red-haired country legend.
Looking very much like an urban cowgirl, McEntire donned a rhinestone-studded sleeveless navy tunic over black skinny jeans tucked into hip flat black leather knee-high boots. The casual, no-nonsense outfit nicely showed off her fit figure.
McEntire offered a little bit of this and that, spanning her career. Opening with “All the Women I Am,” the title track of her latest album, McEntire then offered “Strange,” which was not even a Top 10 song, before offering her first huge hit of the night, “The Fear of Being Alone.”
More songs from her latest album would follow, including the pretty ballad “Somebody’s Chelsea” and the set closer, “Turn on the Radio,” but there were even enough hits to impress the most casual fan.
Standouts included the upbeat “I Want a Cowboy” and “Nothing to Lose,” both of which featured amazing fiddle work; a memorable cover of Vicki Lawrence’s “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia;” the ballad “The Greatest Man I Never Knew;” “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” which produced one of the few audience interactions of the night; and the encore, “Fancy,” a Bobby Gentry cover that many consider her signature hit.
As good as McEntire and her band were, the lack of energy in Ovation Hall for most of the show was astounding. The large crowd, while pleased, seemed to never sing along or even bother to get up for her biggest hits. It was as if they were watching a Broadway show. The Grand Ole Opry it wasn’t.
And the sound mix was annoying, particularly the overblown, humming bass that reverberated throughout the hall most of the night, drowning out other instruments.
Saturday’s show wasn’t the most raucous, foot-stompin’, cowboy-hat-twirling country concert to hit Atlantic City this summer, but McEntire showed she can still bring it vocally with a hit-filled affair that had her loyal fans leaving with big smiles.
Contact Scott Cronick