Though a lot of Collin Raye's catalogue is taken up by sappy ballads, he doesn't like being pegged as just a softy. That caused some problems Tuesday night at Wolf Trap, since most of the fans who stuck around for his closing set clearly did so to hear his lovey-dovey fare, and didn't take to the semi-metallic show -- complete with enough smoke machines and head-banging for an '80s hair band -- that Raye offered up instead.
Before he'd even taken the stage, the deck was stacked against him. A big portion of the crowd had come to see opener Kathy Mattea, whose comparatively literate brand of New Age country music has little in common with Raye's overwrought melodrama. When Mattea left the stage without an encore, a great number of her fans decided to pack it in early, too.
Raye seemed to realize right away that this wasn't going to be his night. He pleaded with the audience to clap along, and on several occasions berated people for not making enough noise with lines like "Did somebody die?" and "You must be season ticket-holders!" Raye tried to win them over with hard work, but his constant runs from stage right to stage left and fist-pumping during up-tempo numbers like "Little Red Rodeo" and "My Kind of Girl" did little more than leave him a sweaty mess. When he got down to the touchy stuff, including "That Was a River," "One Boy, One Girl," "Someone You Used to Know" and, most notably, the almost comically theatrical "Little Rock," the mood picked up considerably.