By Alyssa Penman
High Desert Daily
(Victor Valley)–The weather hasn’t been too kind to the last few musical acts at the San Bernardino County Fair, but Clay Walker brought that summertime feeling Thursday night. Slightly warmer temperatures and the smell of barbeque wafting across the grandstands put the nearly full house in a party mood. Opening with crowd pleasers, including “If I Could Make a Living Out of Loving You” and “Fore She Was Mama”, Walker and his longtime band had the sea of cowboy hats in the palm of their hand, moving quickly from one crowd favorite to the next. “Fall” and “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” had the women on their feet dancing and with each song the crowd right in the front of the stage grew.
The middle of the show shook things up from the “aw-shucks” cowboy standards. Walker’s popular cover of Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”, which he recorded as a duet with Fender in the studio before his death in 2006, was a favorite as he showed off his Spanish skills to the appreciation of the audience. Then a new song called “Jesse James” had the entire crowd on its feet singing the chorus “Sometimes I wanna be like Jesus, sometimes I wanna be like Jesse James.” From the Wild West to the Digital Age, Walker then gave away t-shirts to fans who texted “WALKER” to a shortcode. While fans were busy on their phones, the crew brought out beach balls and leis and started throwing them into the now-full floor seats and the band launched into “Then What”. Taking the party level even further, Walker brought out a musician he has been a fan of for a long time, Debbie Gibson. Walker appeared to have a fanboy moment when Gibson asked him to join her on a cover of “Proud Mary”, deferring to her Tina Turner impression. They followed with an impromptu duet of “Endless Love”.
Each song brought more people into the grandstands and more enthusiastic dancing in the aisles, especially for covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, The Doobie Brothers “China Grove” and The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women”. A young lady named Taylor got the thrill of her life when Walker sang Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. The last song that they performed was Walker’s own “What’s It To You?” The audience demanded an encore for a good couple of minutes before the lights came back on and the band returned. A playful cover of “The Joker” by Steve Miller Band followed by a reprise of “SHe Won’t Be Lonely Long” brought the evening to a close. Many concertgoers clearly knew all the lyrics to his songs, but Walker made a number of new fans through his warm and upbeat stage presence. Country music fans and Hesperia residents Brandi Mayo and eleven year old Emily Gomes enjoyed the show, especially because it was Gomes’ first concert. “My favorite part was all the dancing,” Gomes shared. Wesley and Donna Howard of Hesperia also enjoyed the concert and came specifically to see Walker. “It was just fabulous!” said Donna. “He’s just awesome.” Wesley’s favorite was the Simply Red cover “If You Don’t Know Me by Now.” They were also impressed with Clay Walker himself, who gave a stellar performance though he has battled Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for over a decade. “My brother had MS and passed away four years ago,” shared Donna. “I’m impressed with Walker for that.”
The County Fair has two more musical acts this weekend: American Idol finalist and Phelan phenom Stevie Wright performs Friday night and Jeffrey Perez performs his acclaimed Tribute to Michael Jackson on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Don’t let the weather stop you from coming out and enjoying a great show!