Just a few minutes into her first performance at Merrillville’s Star Plaza Theatre since 2000, Martina McBride promised the packed house they’d be entertained across an entirely new show centered around last year’s “Everlasting” album. The country turned pop crossover queen also proudly beamed it was the most fun she and a four piece band, quartet of brass players and three supporting vocalists have had in years, and while she’s never been one to phone in a performance, there was definitely an elevated element this time through the greater Chicagoland area.
Then again, with a voice that could’ve easily won “American Idol” had she not already sold well over ten million albums before the program existed, getting the crowd to its feet was a regular occurrence.
In addition to boasting a bandstand and a gorgeous, shimmering backdrop that could’ve come straight out of Las Vegas’ classic era, McBride unfurled much of her ambitious new collection, which finds her somewhat unexpectedly volleying between classic R&B covers and a handful of pop/rock n’ roll favorites (much like 2005’s “Timeless” was an homage to her primary genre’s golden greats). After warming up potentially unsuspecting fans with originals “When God-Fearin’ Women Get The Blues” and “Wild Angels,” the powerfully pure vocalist put her crystal clear spin on everything from Van Morrison’s “Wild Night” to Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and the Jim Brickman collaboration “Valentine” (dedicated to her husband with anniversary well wishes).
McBride also transformed a cover of Pink’s power ballad “Perfect” into a Memphis soul swinger and channeled The Supremes’ Motown standard “Come See About Me” into something that very well could’ve come from the Stax Records family. Yet for all the admirable interpretations and flashy presentations, two of the most moving moments were also the most understated. Bathed in just the simple glow of a grand piano, the singer shined on the sentimental “In My Daughter’s Eyes” and soared even higher with the empowering “Anyway,” accompanied by an instant standing ovation.
Then again, with a voice that could’ve easily won “American Idol” had she not already sold well over ten million albums before the program existed, getting the crowd to its feet was a regular occurrence. A finale of Jimmy Ruffin’s soul gem “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” prompted an encore that continued picking up the pace, ultimately wrapping with “This One’s For The Girls” and “Independence Day,” a pair of career-defining cuts throughout a two decade history that continues to joyfully defy designation.
Upcoming highlights coming to the Star Plaza Theatre include Craig Ferguson on Friday, May 29; Jane Lynch on Saturday, June 20; The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and Jonny Lang on Friday, June 26; and Whitesnake on Saturday, July 18. For additional details, visit www.starplazatheatre.com and www.ticketmaster.com.