Unless you’re a frequent WGNA listener or a dyed-in-the-wool country music fanatic, you probably weren’t even aware that the WGNA Winter Carnival was happening at Proctors last Saturday night. The triple-bill of country singers was one of the area’s best kept secrets, if you tried to find it in most of the regional media’s arts & entertainment listings.
No matter, hundreds came out to comfortably fill Proctors’ regal theatre.
Up first, Craig Campbell and his band took the stage. Short on theatrics and long on good-ole-rockin’ country music, he had the audience tapping their feet and nodding their heads to the beat in no time at all. He finished his set with his first charting single “Family Man,” released in August. Waving goodbye, he told the crowd he’d be hanging out at the merchandising table, and several hundred people lined up to say hello and chat with him.
Taking over the show’s middle slot, Darryl Worley’s set was spirited and flawless, as he sang an hour’s worth of his catchy songs including the radio hit “Keep The Change” from his upcoming album, “God & Country.” Looking like one of the ZZ Top guys, Worley’s bearded guitarist added all kinds of spicy musical flavors to the tunes with his stinging leads and tasteful Telecaster guitar licks. Toward the end of his set, Worley walked out into the pit in front of the stage to shake hands with his many fans, getting all up-close and personal, country-style.
Headliner and heartthrob Joe Nichols did waste any time – he was in the pit by his second song, smiling like the cat who ate the canary and greeting his many fans who had left their seats in the back to make their way up to the front of the stage. Comprised of mostly women, Nichols flashed his pearly whites and sang to them one and all. On a mini-scale, it was like seeing the Beatles performing at Shea Stadium in the early ’60s, flash cameras and screaming, happy female campers all around the pit.
Nichols is touring in support of his most seventh and recent album, a compilation of his greatest hits including his most recent number one, “Gimmie That Girl.” So naturally, he played all the songs he is best known for: “Believers,” “Another side Of You,” “Tequila Makes Her Cloths Fall Off” and more. That’s a good thing because he’s a young guy with multiple hits on the radio and a stature on the country scene that’s still on the rise. Nice coup for WGNA to get him out here, even if word of the concert was kept pretty much under wraps.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk