Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap at Billy Bob’s
Photo By Chuck Cox
Rattle and Hum Sports

By Chuck Cox

Special Contributor

Any time you go to see a legendary artist who is getting up there in age, you never can be too sure what you’ll get.

The first time I saw country and western legend Ronnie Milsap six years ago at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Auditorium, he was absolutely terrific. My parents were pretty big fans of the genre and of Milsap, so I’ve been listening to the man with 40 No. 1 hits for pretty much as long as I can remember.

Most of those 40 No. 1 songs are burned into my memory, and I still listen to a handful of them on a regular basis.

So, I was pretty excited for another opportunity to see Milsap, 71, on Saturday night at Billy Bob’s. And while he sounded every bit as good as he did back in 2008, the show itself had some serious peaks and valleys. And to say it was disjointed was an understatement.

After opening with “Prisoner of the Highway,” Milsap launched into two of his trademark medleys — one short one and one really long one. During both of them, he said he had to “try to squeeze 40 No. 1 hits into a 30-minute show.”

But after he was finally done with the second medley, he stuck to playing full songs the rest of the night. And it was when he was playing some of his classics, like “Lost in the Fifties Tonight” or “Smoky Mountain Rain,” in their entirety, that made the show well worth while. I’ve always loved hearing him play piano, too.

However, the 75-minute concert also included two cover songs with his acoustic guitar player and background vocalist Rhonda Hampton on lead vocals, a cover of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart” after a story that included a lame Obama joke (which delighted most of the crowd) and the incredibly cheesy choice to close with “America the Beautiful.”

I don’t doubt Milsap’s sincerity or patriotism, but his show would have been exponentially better if he played full versions of some of his huge hits he squeezed into medleys or ones like “It Was Almost Like a Song” he left out all together.

That’s not to say I was totally disappointed. I still get a kick out of seeing guys like Milsap play shows. And I just appreciate the fact that he’s still out there touring. I hope he is able to continue to do so as long as he wishes.

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