DALLAS Clint Black gently broke the bad news Thursday night.
We left the big production at home and had to cut out all the dance numbers and costume changes sorry, said the black-clad country star, by way of introduction.
The feisty, appreciative (albeit criminally small) audience at the Majestic Theatre didnt seem the least bit perturbed by the revelation, particularly given the good news: the focus this night would be squarely upon Blacks remarkably sturdy songcraft.
And for 90 minutes, the Katy-raised singer-songwriter peeled his tunes to the bone, both alone and with an ace four-piece band, which included Blacks long-time collaborator Hayden Nicholas.
Whether it was material yet to be released (such as Better and Worse, a track from a forthcoming LP, which Black cracked hes been working on for 16 years), old favorites ( Like the Rain; Killin Time) or others classics ( Time of the Preacher, from Willie Nelsons seminal Red-Headed Stranger record, during which Black trotted out an eerily evocative imitation of Nelsons distinctive nasal register), Black deftly moved between moods, giving the evening an expansive feel.
Quick with a self-deprecating quip with a raconteurs flair for ancedotes, Black riffed on everything from casinos to the secret for a successful marriage the 52-year-old musician most clearly illustrated how far Nashville has wandered from its roots. It wasnt so long ago that Blacks music was in heavy rotation, and he was selling millions of albums a year.
Now, with Music Citys fixation on suntanned youth, trucks and chugging as much beer as possible, Blacks catalog almost seems old before its time. (Tellingly, the nights only real misfire was Blacks ham-handed The International Language of Beer, a clear sop to current tastes, and a song beneath his skills as a writer.)
But the material also felt lived in, durable and relatable a man observing what he sees and hears, sculpting lyrics out of thoughts and conveying them with a minimum of fuss. Art that lasts tends to do so for a reason.
Once you strip away all the production, glitz and glamour, and youre left with just the music, it succeeds or fails on the strength of the artist behind it. While Clint Black made such a feat seem effortless Thursday, doing so is not always as easy it might seem.
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis delivered an altogether pleasing opening set, spending a too short half hour on stage, rifling through each others back catalogs and generally charming everyone in sight. The husband-wife troubadour teams voices blend in gorgeous fashion, and the set even showcased new songs from the pairs new record, due out in May.