BANGOR, Maine — About the only thing missing was the barbecue as Toby Keith’s Locked & Loaded tour brought self-proclaimed rednecks together with the white-collared and the blue at the Waterfront Pavilion on Saturday.
And what was without question the largest gathering of women wearing boots and cowboy hats in Bangor in July may also have been the biggest crowd to date for the Bangor Waterfront Concerts series.
A crowd estimated by some police and fire officers to be well over 12,000 and possibly close to 15,000 was locked in for the better part of 3½ hours Saturday night as bluejeans-clad country music superstar Keith and opener Eric Church entertained the multitudes crammed into the pavilion on a balmy, clear evening.
Both Keith and Church delivered a playlist loaded with hits, signature singles, anthems and favorites while Bangor turned into Nashville north for a few hours.
Keith’s Locked & Loaded tour — ushered into the city by six tractor-trailer trucks jammed with equipment, pyrotechnics, electronics, instruments and untold gear — proved to be just that as the man synonymous with country-western drinking anthems and odes to the American military belted out 19 songs, all of them well-known enough for the majority of fans in attendance — young and old — to sing along.
The assortment of fans was a mix of young and old, men and women (although the women seemed to have at least a slight numerical edge) and all walks of life inside and from well beyond Bangor. Even a bride and groom — married about six hours earlier — attended the show, still wearing the wedding dress and tuxedo, along with every bridesmaid and groomsman as well as several other family members and friends.
After a six-hour-long Texaco Country Showdown concert featuring 19 lesser-known new artists, Church took the stage for his second concert at the Waterfront in the last two years. Church went on a little late at 7:35 p.m., but made up for lost time by playing 14 tunes in 65 minutes.
“On a night like tonight, I like to kick back and drink and sing with my friends,” Church told an appreciative audience.
The North Carolina native’s crowd favorites included “Guys Like Me,” “Smoke a Little Smoke,” and “Hell on the Heart.”
Keith, clad in an off-white cowboy hat, a black denim long-sleeved shirt, bluejeans and boots, warmed the crowd up after Church with a humorous three-minute video featuring dogs and Ford products.
He then started promptly — and with a literal bang — at 9 p.m. as fireworks erupted onstage just as Keith and his Easy Money Band, which included a three-man horn section, started things up with “Bullets in the Gun” followed by “American Ride.”
And the American theme didn’t end there. “Made in America” was played shortly after, and the encore featured two popular anthems: “American Soldier” and “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American).”
In between, it was back to beer, babes and bars with standards “Whiskey Girl,” “Get Drunk and Be Somebody,” “Who’s Your Daddy?” “As Good as I Once Was,” “I Love This Bar” and “How Do You Like Me Now?”
The native Oklahoman, who turned 50 on Friday, also provided a couple of humorous nonhit singles that have become widely recognized nonetheless: “Weed with Willie” — a tune about smoking marijuana with Willie Nelson (who was featured “singing along” with Keith by pretaped video on “Beer for My Horses”) and “Get Out of My Car.”
Keith worked Bangor and Maine into several of his songs, delighting the crowd, and combined entertaining video effects and lighting with periodic shots of the crowd (almost all of whom were always singing along). Pyrotechnics ranging from flamethrowers shooting red, to large sparklers, to silver-and-gold streamers shot out over the crowd from the stage, which featured a 20-foot walkway with sideway extensions in a “T” formation.