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Clay Walker
September 7, 2001
At The Woodlands Pavilion
Woodlands, TX

by Rayanna Barker
September 20, 2001

Seeing Clay Walker, many years ago, when he opened for Alan Jackson in Beaumont, gave me an idea of what his stage presence is. Clay had great energy and put on a hell of a show, but in no way did it compare to the show he played on Friday the 7th at the Woodlands.

This was Clay's annual Woodlands show, a homecoming of sorts, and he always turns it up for the hometown crowd. With his family sitting on the sides of the stage, Clay started the show a little after 9, coming right up through floor of the set. With a stage full of dancers and a full band behind him, Clay opened with "I Love It", a song off of his new album Say No More. The new song was very upbeat, fun, and a great way to start the show.

Grinning from ear to ear, Clay took the crowd through 9 years of music, playing songs from every one of his albums and even covering a few of his own favorite songs. After finishing "I Love It," Clay went right into "Dreaming With My Eyes Wide Open" and then warned the crowd out on the hill that he and his band would be coming out there with them very soon.

Many songs later, Clay did just that. With a makeshift stage set up mid way through the venue, Clay and his band jumped right off the stage and walked down the isles of the pavilion to the lawn section. He warned the crowd that he didn't know all of the lyrics for the next song he played, "Man of constant Sorrow." He played and sang it perfectly, complete with the full George Clooney dance. It was fun to watch. From that he went into "I'll Fly Away," and the crowd ate it up. After a few more songs they headed back up to the stage and went from unplugged to high gear.

"Then What," which is one of my personal favorites, started with the familiar Jimmy Buffet-like sound and was accompanied by giant beach balls and streamers. I must say that I have never seen so much paper come out in one show. The balls didn't last too long in the crowd before people deflated them and packed them away as a souvenir. It was really lame.

"Live Until I Die" was also a highlight of the show, to me it is Clay Walker. Growing up in the same area where Clay grew up I really can identify with this song. He even commented at the show that sometimes on the road he gets homesick when he plays it.

After many more songs, Clay said his goodnights and left the stage, but it didn't take much persuading from his hometown to convince him to come back. What I thought would just be a one or two song encore turned into Clay playing until the venue literally shut him down. But what a show it had been. He played everything from church music to "La Bamba" and never quit.

It is so refreshing to go and see someone who has been touring and making albums steadily for the last 9 years and you can still get the sense that he genuinely loves what he does. Security told us that Clay was very upset about having his set cut short, which is rare in the music world today. So many major acts script out each set and run through it every night. It was great so see someone who wanted to play everything they knew.

Fireworks, confetti, streamers, and great big beach balls, this show had something for everyone. If Clay comes through your town you owe it to yourself to check this show out.

Rayanna Barker is a Contributing Writer. Contact her at rayanna@rockzone.com.

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