Standing behind a set of backlit translucent paned French doors loomed the unmistakable silhouette of a larger than life Trace Adkins. That silhouette is as recognizable to country fans as his southern drawl baritone voice.
As he opened the doors and walked down the steps onto the stage at The Event Center at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, he joined his five-piece band, walked across the stage tipping his hat to the audience who greeted him with a standing ovation. Yes, the Trace Adkins fans were in the house.
Adkins opened the show Saturday night with his first No. 1 hit, “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” which topped the chart in 1996.
Dressed in a black shirt, jeans, boots and his signature black cowboy hat and long ponytail, he commanded the stage with a laid-back confidence, and slid right into “Songs About Me,” the title track from his 2004 album, and “Swing,” from his 2006 album “Dangerous Man.” The stage lights dimmed as Adkins picked up his black acoustic guitar and sang “This Ain’t No Love Song,” the debut single from his album with record label Show Dog-Universal Music, released in 2010.
“This next song is a love song,” Adkins said before the tongue-in-cheek “Marry for Money” and then, one of my favorites, “Chrome,” from the album of the same name and his first to reach the top 5 in country albums.
“It’s my pleasure to be with you West Virginia!” Adkins said, before singing “You’re Gonna Miss This,” his third No. 1 song.
He introduced the next song in his 16-song set by telling how he came to Nashville about 20 years ago. He had been playing bars and roadhouses in Texas and decided to make the move up to Nashville. After a few years he met a label executive and in the course of conversation asked him if there was a girl in Texas. A lot of them, Adkins responded. “He gave me a homework assignment, to write a song about them,” he said, and the result was “There’s a Girl in Texas” his first single, released in 1996.
“It means more to me now than when I wrote it,” Adkins said. “It’s funny how that happens.”
Adkins said he recently added “Every Light in the House is On,” his first top 5 single, from 1996, back to the setlist. “I don’t ever get tired of singing this song,” he said. “It’s the hardest song to sing. You’ve got to try hard not to suck at this song.” Not tonight … he nailed it.
It was a night of classic Trace: “Hot Mama,” “Ladies Love Country Boys” (“turn it up!), “I Left Something Turned On At Home,” and some new Trace, “Maintenance Man.”
And closed the show with his super successful crossover hit, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”
He returned for a one-song encore about “what we do. This (performing live shows) is free, we get paid to ride the bus,” he said. “We’ve been to every state, every corner of this beautiful country, and next week we’re going to (entertain troops overseas),” he said before ending the show with “Ride”:
“Let’s ride like the wind, but I’ll be back again sure as this world spins around, One day I might find a reason to shut this thing down but for now lets ride”
“Take care of yourself,” he said to applause. “I mean it, take care of yourself because nobody else will. It’s good for my heart to be here with you!”
And as the show began, Adkins took off his hat to a standing ovation. Only this time, he tossed it to a fan in the front rows.
“I don’t know why,” said the fan after the show. “He just gave it to me.”
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After a tough year, (re-entering rehab, the death of his father and a divorce) Adkins looked lean and fit. On Jan. 13, (his birthday), he released a live concert DVD filmed last August in New York with nearly two hours of his hits. In May, look for Trace portray a military veteran on the NBC medical drama “Night Shift” (10 p.m. Mondays). He will play the leader of a therapy group attended buy Dr. TC Callahan, one of the show’s main characters, portrayed by actor Eoin Macken.
Adkins will return to the big screen in the “Smokey and the Bandit”-like movie “Roadrunner,” a film about car racing. Scott Eastwood (yep, he’s Clint’s son), is also slated to star in the film.
He’s working on a new album and should be finished in the next couple of months and he hosts a SiriusXM country music radio show “Throwback Thirty,” with top country songs from the 2000s.