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Sydney, Acer Arena, May 6, 2009

We don’t know how lucky we are down here in Australia. We’re a million miles from anywhere and we have a negligible population so it doesn’t make great economic sense for a big name performer or group to come here (talk to someone in New Zealand and they really know what we mean). But Brooks and Dunn aren’t in it for the money – they simply love coming to Australia and one gets the feeling that they see a lot of kindred spirits here and a vibrant country music scene like their own in the US.

Last night’s performance by country music royalty Brooks and Dunn was a top concert in all respects.

Dave and I and our other brother Andrew saw Brooks and Dunn in early 2008 at Acer Arena. Andrew was a fan but Dave and I hardly knew them. Chuck us some Willie, Waylon, Johnny or even some Alan Jackson, Keith Urban or Toby Keith and we could sing along with the best of them. But Brooks and Dunn? Who were these guys?

Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks are arguably two of the biggest names in country music in the US right now. They have such a huge following that they could almost be touring 365 days a year in the US and selling out stadiums much bigger than Acer Arena in most of the cities in which they perform. Coming to Australia represents a two-week odyssey to a place with smaller crowds and much few opportunities to perform (a concert in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney at best for most international artists traveling here).

In 2008 when they first performed in Australia, they were surprised when people in the crowd started singing along to their songs and when they asked people how long they had traveled to get there, someone in the crowd said 10 hours. 10 hours they exclaimed! That just doesn’t happen in the US! It was this dedication that inspired Brooks and Dunn to come back again just a year later.

I must say I was a little surprised that they were coming back so soon after their last concert. Acer was not at capacity last night, but even in intimate mode it represented a great showing on a weeknight, especially in a GFC and in a time when a lot of Aussie country folk are doing it tough.

The crowd at a Brooks and Dunn concert is an interesting one. There are a heck of a lot of cowboy-hat wearing farm boys who come and driving into the carpark you know that utes are well and truly back in vogue. Most of these utes have a bevy of huge spotlights mounted on top of the roll bar and lots have the Brooks and Dunn bull-head skeleton decal on the back window. As well as the cowboys, there are lots of cowgirls who make the journey. These cowgirls typically travel in groups. They are aged between 15-40 and are huge buyers of the pink Brooks and Dunn tanktops that sell at the merchandise bar before and after the show. Walking through the crowd you know that most of them are staying in Sydney hotels for the night. As well as the country folks, there are city slickers like ourselves there as well. We don’t know every song, but we marvel at the power of the voices and appreciate the musicians and how they have electrified country music and modernised it to make it relevant and contemporary.

The boys started their 2-hour set with Cowboy Town and a few songs later after Hillbilly Deluxe, Brooks and Dunn had well and truly won the crowd. With their huge TV screen playing montages of scantily clad cowgirls, Nascar racers, SUVs and rodeos, listening to Put a Girl In It, She Likes to Get Out of Town and Cowgirls Don’t Cry was a great way to pass a Wednesday night. The slower set which included a couple of oldies sung by Kix and a stirring rendition of Believe by Ronnie, was a great change of pace and a nice prelude to the final fast-paced set which included my personal favourite, Proud of the House We Built, and mega-hits Play Something Country and My Maria. The boys sang Boot Scootin’ Boogie for their final encore song and by this stage, although Ronnie Dunn looked dog-tired, his voice reached its peak and soared above the backing vocals in a show of strength that was extremely impressive.

Unfortunately our brother Andrew was tied up 4 hours away in another city due to his work and could not make the concert. In his place, Dave invited a good friend along. Now I doubt Harold had listened to much country music in his time but I’m sure he’ll be tuning in to the Country Music Channel this weekend on his Foxtel. Our Dad, Bob, may have thought the electric guitars a little loud, but he too enjoyed the spectacle and the strength of the voices.

We saw The Highwaymen in the mind 1990’s a couple of times and to me, those four country music legends represent the epitome of country music. Brooks and Dunn may not have been around for as long as Willie, Waylon, Kris and Johnny are/were, but you get the feeling that their influence will be as long-lasting.

This morning, I take my new Brooks and Dunn cap off to the boys who traveled so far to see us, to perform their hearts out in front of thousands of beer and bundy-drinking Aussies who were just damn happy to be there.

Come again boys! We’ll definitely be there to see you.

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