Appearing at Jiffy Lube Live on Saturday night, the onetime controversy-stoking country star marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with a confident shrug.
“We always gotta be vigilant,” Keith said. But come what may, “the military is always gonna take care of us.”
Say what you will about the 50-year-old Keith — he’s either an unabashed American patriot or the cartoonish embodiment of reckless jingoism — the guy does what he can to take care of the military, notching, by his count, 180 USO-sponsored shows overseas.
During a two-hour set, Keith introduced “Made in America,” a song from a new album due this fall. Sure to make critics gag and fans swoon, it lamented the country’s dependence on imported oil and cheap textiles before soaring into familiar anthemic territory — with an eye, perhaps, toward countering those who suspect tea party conservatives are nursing a xenophobic grudge:
“He ain’t prejudiced / He’s just made in America.”
In any case, “Made in America” joined the company of “American Ride,” “American Soldier” and “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American).”
A mellow-seeming Keith, who sipped from a plastic party cup as often as he strummed a guitar, barely departed materially from last summer’s set (which occurred, coincidentally, on Sept. 11).
One truly baffling moment saw Keith cede center stage to a backup vocalist for a professional but pointless rendition of the disco-funk classic “Lady Marmalade.”
Howdid the audience like him then?
Not so much.
Onstage before Keith on Saturday was the emerging superstar Eric Church, who appeared in front of a menacing backdrop image of a metallic skull wearing a Busch Light cap. The aesthetic matched Church’s sound: a feisty combination punch of guitar riffs and heartland traditionalism.
Whether he was singing introspective ballads such as “Love Your Love the Most” or buzz-saw rockers such as “Lotta Boot Left to Fill,” Church maintained an unflappable cool behind his aviator shades.
“I’m Gettin’ Stoned,” Church explained, was inspired by the loss of a girlfriend to a rival suitor.