Toby Keith at Cricket Wireless Ampitheatre Last Night

Toby Keith
August 8, 2010
Cricket Wireless Ampitheatre

I have to admit I went to Toby Keith's show at Cricket only partially to hear classics like "Should've Been A Cowboy" and "How Do You Like Me Now?!" Sure, it's always nice to hear Toby belt out his Blue Collar anthems, and, yes, Toby has a new record coming out in October. But, as it happens, this was The American Ride Tour, and that already came around last year.

On the other hand, I was very, very curious if Keith, ever the provocateur, would become the first high-profile musician to extol the virtues of SB 1070 from an Arizona stage. Nearly every show I've seen this summer -- from Cake to Lady Gaga -- has had a little lecture about the evils of the law built into it. If you're keeping count at home, The Republic's Ed Masley is on the record as saying Ted Nugent is the only notable name to come out in support of the law.

So what would Toby do?

As it happens Toby's opener, Trace Adkins, beat him to the punch. The long-haired, muscle-bound Adkins, who is signed to Toby's imprint, sandwiched a few remarks between his horrendous 2005 single "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," and the cover of Foreigner's "Dirty White Boy" which ended his set

Ninety-nine percent of the Americans he's talked to agree with SB 1070, Adkins said, and he salutes Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe. What about the people who don't like the law? "Blow me," he said. Big words coming from a guy that'd be lucky to get any applause singing dive-bar karaoke after laying shingles all day if it weren't for his buddy Toby.

And what about Toby? What does he think about the immigration issue?

We never found out, sadly. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure I'd disagree with what Keith had to stay, but I still wanted to hear it.

After an introductory Ford commercial and a flurry of fireworks, Keith rolled out in the bed of a F-150 to sing the title track off his upcoming album Bullets In The Gun followed by the title track off his current record, American Ride. From there, Keith unrolled a nice selection of hits (setlist below) substituting "Arizona" for other geographic locations in the lyrics as appropriate.

It was a nice set -- Keith had good energy and played what people wanted to hear -- but he never got around to talking about the most pressing issue in Arizona today. That was pretty disappointing. For a musician who's made his bones shooting off his mouth about controversial issues to remain silent while his opener talks tough? Pretty lame.

Maybe it's a corporate branding thing. Ford clearly underwrote this tour and probably has some serious clout. Or, hey, maybe Keith legitimately doesn't have an opinion strong enough to share. Maybe Toby opposes SB 1070 but does not want to alienate his right-wing fanbase. Either way, for now it's now two second-tier acts, Trace Adkins and Ted Nugent, standing against dozens and dozens of progressive artists who've expressed their outrage over SB 1070 when they played Phoenix this summer. Does Toby "Natalie Maines is a bitch for criticizing the president on foreign soil" Keith not publicly supporting it point to the law being pretty ridiculous? Draw your own conclusions.

Critic's bias: Not generally sympathetic to Toby's politics but I love the guy. His political viewpoints are actually a lot more nuanced than most people would think based on the "Put A Boot In Your Ass" song, though, so who knows on SB 1070. Maybe he was trying to not offend Ford, or maybe it was his conservative fans he didn't want to alienate. Or maybe he just doesn't care a lot.

The crowd: The two most popular fashion statements were tight black dressed for the ladies and traditional white straw cowboy hats for the gentlemen. Rarely was this combination spotted together.

Overheard in the crowd: "USA, USA" chant from a kid in the crowd during the encore break. Why not, right? "They got a big fight up there, I'm waiting to fuck somebody up," from a shirtless guy standing outside the gate looking agitated after the show.

Random notebook dump: Trace Adkins' performance of "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" might be the worst song I have to watch at a concert all year. Man, that guy is awful. Everything about him bothers me. I hate his hulking, hunched posture, I hate his cheesy songs, I hate his long dirty hair and his graying goatee. He's just a skeezeball all the way around.


Bullets In The Gun
American Ride
I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight
Whiskey Girl
I Wanna Talk About Me
Get Drunk And Be Somebody
You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This
Cryin' For Me / Wayman's Song
Who's Your Daddy?
I Ain't As Good As I Once Was
I Love This Bar
Should've Been A Cowboy
I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again
Beer For My Horses
How Do You Like Me Now
A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action

American Soldier
Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar