As brilliant as Randy Travis' two albums are, his concert at the Patriot Center Sunday night was even better. The young country singer felt so comfortable in the crisp swing arrangements played by his superb road band that his vocals were at once more relaxed and more dramatic than on his records. With a voice that combined the creamy tone of George Jones, the storytelling skills of Merle Haggard and the jazz instincts of Willie Nelson, Travis reaffirmed his status as the best new country singer of the '80s.
On uptempo tunes like his new single, "Too Gone Too Long," Travis' effortless, sexy voice settled perfectly on the band's syncopated swing accents. On ballads such as "On the Other Hand," the subtle reluctance in his delivery hinted at the tough decisions marriage demands. When he sang a Hank Williams medley, he was confident enough to understate the familiar songs; that was followed by gorgeous three-part harmonies on a sparse, acoustic version of the Sons of the Pioneers' "Tumbling Tumbleweeds."
There aren't many singers who can't squeeze all their No. 1 hits into an hour show, but Conway Twitty sang fewer than half of his more than 50 chart-toppers in the opening set. It's been 30 years since his first hit, and Twitty displayed consummate professionalism as he breezed through 20 songs in 60 minutes. Looking more like a professional golfer than a hillbilly singer, Twitty's sturdy voice made the most of his rather hackneyed songs, which pandered to the marital-devotion fantasies of his fans.