WALKER BRINGS SHOW TO TOWN
By TERRI TABOR
Forget any thoughts of a Clay Walker who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.
The country recording artist was anything but suffering at his concert at the Tupelo Coliseum Sunday night. There was not a slouch in his step, a falter in his voice or a grimace of pain, but rather an agile Walker who swayed his hips, tapped his feet and continuously picked out crowd pleasers despite the April diagnosis of the central nervous system disease.
Decked in standard country attire a black Stetson hat, wranglers, a plaid shirt and boots, Walker took the Tupelo stage moving and singing to the playful beat of one of his first singles, “White Palace.”
With his “shoot-ma’am-it’s-nothing demeanor,” Walker easily put his 4,016 Tupelo fans in a trance during his “Hypnotize the Moon” tour.
He wasted no time in getting down to business. Hit after hit, Walker kept picking them out, packing his six No. 1 singles as well as others in an hour-long song set. From easy up-tempo numbers like “Live until I Die,” “Dreamin’,” and “Who Needs You Baby” to more ballad types including “Picture” and the tour’s signature “Hypnotize the Moon,” Walker had no trouble holding the fans’ attention. The crowd didn’t miss a beat including their solos on “Who Needs You Baby,” and the Van Morrison favorite “Brown-eyed Girl.”
The fans were a vital part of the concert. Unlike many Tupelo Coliseum shows, Walker’s show granted the fans permission to approach the stage to snap pictures and deliver flowers.
“I love ya’ll, too,” he replied to some screaming fans and then courteously thanked them for the flowers.
Although “Hypnotize the Moon” may sound like the makings of a tranquil, serene concert, Walker’s show was anything but. During what he called a pickin’-and-grinnin’ session, the audience pounded the floors of their sections while he and other band members strummed out the “Beverly Hillbillies” tune, the “Dueling Banjo” and “Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” The acoustic set was followed with a tribute to Elvis in which Walker powerfully sang “Suspicious Minds.”
Walker’s job as a hypnotist was made easy by newcomer Bryan White. The 22-year-old singer spellbound the audience with his twinkling eyes and continuous, dimpled smile. The versatile singer demonstrated why he was named the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Vocalist with his voice that was melting on ballads like “Not Supposed To Love You Anymore” and then fiery on faster numbers like “Eugene, You Genius.”
Bouncing from corner to corner of the stage and hamming it up with other band members as well as the audience, White entertained like it was second nature. He evoked screams as he sang his lyrical hits “Rebecca Lynn” and “Someone Else’s Star,” but he really showed off with his closing number which was a medley of some his favorites, including Otis Redding’s, “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay,” the Temptations’ “My Girl,” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.”