Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Playing some country
Las Vegas has played an integral role in the performing histories of both Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire, who perform the final three shows of their 2018 Colosseum residency dates this week during National Finals Rodeo. They began their groundbreaking co-headlining residency in 2015, nearly two decades after touring together during high points in their careers. By that time, McEntire was well known for the Vegas-level stage design and choreography of her live shows, while a Cirque du Soleil performance witnessed by Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn sparked the idea that would inspire the duo’s early 2000s Neon Circus tours.
NFR played a pivotal role in McEntire’s career before it moved to Las Vegas. Had the 1974 rodeo competition not taken place in Oklahoma City, McEntire might not have been discovered singing the national anthem. Then again, she might have become a superstar sooner had Mercury Records not signed her several months later and marketed her as a pop-crossover singer. Although she had several hits, starting with a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” in 1979, McEntire rebelled and began recording for MCA five years later. Her 1984 album My Kind of Country produced two No. 1 hits, and she was recognized with CMA and ACM awards for Female Vocalist of the Year.
Brooks and Dunn rode onto the scene as a duo in 1991 with the album Brand New Man, which became the No. 3 country album that August. Their first No. 1 single, “Ain’t Nothing 'Bout You,” spent six weeks at the top of the charts, while the song perhaps best associated with them, “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” was No. 1 for four weeks in 1992. They were big enough to be the featured act for the 1993 grand opening of the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and, in 1994, had their first of three No. 1 albums with Waitin’ on Sundown. By that time Brooks & Dunn were as reputed for their live performances as for their songwriting, with Kix Brooks becoming known for his natural crowd-rousing ability.
McEntire, meanwhile, had become an inspiration to an entire generation of female singers and had raised the bar for production values in country music concerts. She gradually evolved her image from down-home to sophisticated and glamorous, added cutting-edge choreography, and rode a balcony over her audiences’ heads decades before Taylor Swift repeated the feat. It was only natural for her to co-headline with her male-duo counterparts in 1997, and the live partnership turned collaboratively fruitful when Brooks & Dunn joined voices with McEntire for 1998 country No. 1 “If You See Him/If You See Her.”
That song has been included in the Colosseum shows, which have been opening with McEntire flanked on her left by a Fender Telecaster-wielding Brooks and by an acoustic/electric-playing Dunn to her right as they perform “Play Some Country” together. The two acts trade stage time, reaching deep into their catalogs of hits, then reunite before heading towards a finale that has included McEntire’s “Fancy” and Brooks and Dunn’s “Only in America.” Only in Las Vegas, only inside Caesars Palace, only at the Colosseum.
Caesars Palace, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 & 14-15, $59.50-$205 plus tax and fee. 866.320.9763