Former “American Idol” sensation Kellie Pickler and her brash young band brought their brand of pop-country music to Temecula’s Pechanga Resort & Casino Friday night, where she proved she has grown into one of Nashville’s leading female artists.
From the start, Kellie let it be known that she was there for her strong, independent female fans.
“Hey, where are my country ladies tonight? This one’s for you!” Kellie proclaimed as she led into her hit single “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful,” a song about finding strength within oneself and not allowing negative outside forces influence your decisions.
It’s a song that rings true with not only her young fans, but with Kellie herself.
This tour has become a sort of coming-out party for Kellie. Having recently ended her relationship with her longtime label (BNA Records/Sony) and making a conscious effort to reconnect with her traditional country roots, Kellie is in the process of re-inventing herself into a serious musical artist.
So while her pop side never really strayed too far away, Kellie made her case for her love of traditional country music this evening by celebrating some of the great artists of the past who played a significant role in developing her current sound.
Kellie’s cover of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” and George Jones’ “White Lightnin’” set the tone midway through her set, the latter being hers and “Grandpa Pickler’s song” that solidified her North Carolina family roots.
But two of her originals from her latest release “100 Proof” also fit the classic country mode — “Where’s Tammy Wynette” (her ode to one of the Queens of Country – a major musical influence) and “Stop Cheatin’ On Me” (whose chorus – “Stop cheatin’ on me, or I’ll start cheatin’ on you”) - is as country as country gets.
And with “Unlock That Honky Tonk,” Pickler proved that when she doesn’t try to be cute (which is difficult, as she is a lovely young woman), she has the potential to be taken seriously as a true country storyteller. It was easily one of the show’s highlights.
Of course, that doesn’t mean she takes everything too seriously and lacks a keen sense of humor. When someone in the crowd yelled “What are you drinking?” – referring to whatever was in her blue plastic cup she repeatedly went back to after nearly every song — Kellie simply replied with a smirk and a wink, “Sweet tea. What do you think I’m drinkin’?”
My money is on Jack Daniels, a true country girl’s drink.
Pickler ended her concert on a high note — stepping off the stage and walking through the seated Showroom Theater audience, high-fiving and hugging her fans. The “round trip” is always a crowd pleaser.
Then came her two biggest smashes: “Best Days Of Your Life” (co-penned with Taylor Swift) ended her set and “Red High Heels” acted as her encore, with her “country ladies” on their feet, dancing and singing “I’m about to show you just how missin’ me feels, in my red high heels.”
We miss you already, Ms. Pickler. Until next time.
Chris Baptiste is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.