by Eric Stearley
For country music fans, Friday night’s concert at the Honeywell Center was one to remember. For anyone unimpressed by Evans’ many awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year and Video of the Year, her live show erases any doubts that she is among the best country music artists of her time.
The concert began with an acoustic opening act, with Cheryl LuQuire behind the microphone accompanied by a single guitar. The played a short set in front of the Ford Theatre’s red curtain, LuQuire’s southern accent and charm coming through. The unassuming opening act was a perfect contrast to the main event, as floor-to-ceiling backdrops, hundreds of colored lights, loud electronic instruments, and seven performers took the stage to declare before a single word was spoken that Sara Evans was in the house.
Thirty-eight years of live vocal performance came through Friday as Evans’ energizing performance had many people singing along to any one of her many hits and a few people relentlessly dancing throughout the performance. Led by her brother and bass player Matt, Evans’ six-piece band was every bit as good as those on her recordings. As if the audience wasn’t satisfied with two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, a piano and drums, the musicians seamlessly switched instruments, adding to the ensemble a mandolin, fiddle, baritone guitar and even sporadic electronic percussion throughout the set.
The concert was high energy from the start, and elbow room was limited, as nearly every one of the Ford Theatre’s 1500 seats was filled. From the first striking of a guitar string or thump of the bass drum, it seemed that most of the audience knew exactly which song was coming next. Dedicated fans sang along with every song, while some attendees less educated on the Sara Evans repertoire were left with a feeling of amazement that this one artist was responsible for so many hit country songs. Aside from the obvious talent on stage and the stunning light show, perhaps the most impressive part of the performance was that every song played during the 90 minutes set was a country music hit.
Evans took some time between songs to talk about her inspiration, her life, raising seven kids, and to introduce her band. There was not a dull moment as the break in music was filled with comedic anecdotes on the part of Evans. The iconic vocalist was accompanied by the highest quality musicians, a light show deserving of a football stadium venue and a theatre full of enthusiastic fans belting out every lyric. Someone transported to the show could have been more easily convinced that they were sitting at the CMA Awards than in a theatre in Wabash, Indiana.
After the hit-filled set, Evans returned to the stage for a three-song encore, giving the audience well more than what they expected. Evans fans were treated to something new as her encore featured covers of songs by Gavin DeGraw and Isaac Blade of The Fray, both of which she sings with on her upcoming album Slow Me Down. Before leaving the stage, Evans signed a couple albums for lucky fans sitting in the orchestra pit. The international star made herself available after the show for a meet and greet with her local fans.
Whether a country music addict or simple music enthusiast, those at Friday’s show were left with no doubt in their minds that Evans’ show was one of the best to make a stop at the Ford Theatre this year.