For years, they’ve been letting her into their living rooms.
On Monday night, 4,500 shrieking, adoring country music fans at Red Deer’s Centrium officially let Reba McEntire into their hearts.
The Queen of Country and star of the hit Reba TV show made her stage entrance at a fundraiser for the Alberta Cancer Foundation to a thundering standing ovation — and she hadn’t even started singing yet.
“Great to be in Alberta again,” said McEntire while peering out into the largely middle-aged, female crowd.
“Seems like a girls’ night out,” she quipped in her famous Oklahoma drawl to more shouts and applause.
Accompanied by her accomplished nine-piece band, McEntire launched into Can’t Even Get the Blues No More while wearing a glittery tank top and black jeans.
Fans must have wondered just how her big-screen image managed to stay practically the same as when McEntire shot into the big time 30 years ago? Don’t country superstars age like other people?
The waifish singer walked the stage like she owned it while performing The Fear of Being Alone, which featured some great electric fiddle playing.
McEntire then promised to take us all on a journey through her old and new hits, which led to some tear-jerking tunes and some toe-tappers.
The trip started with her sardonic Strange, and continued as the pinkish lights faded and McEntire was bathed in blue while singing her spooky version of the seminal Vicki Lawrence hit, The Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia.
As if the perky singer can’t stand to stay moody for long, McEntire lightened things up with a song she claimed would have filled the dance floor back when she was entertaining at country dances with her family band at age 13 — I’ll Have What She’s Having proved to be a fun two-stepping tune.
Pink Guitar was a light-hearted selection that McEntire dedicated it to other little girls eagerly dreaming of becoming singers. And I Want a Cowboy, which she performed while images of Alan Ladd, Michael Landon, Paul Newman and other cowboys were flashed on the screen, was a definite crowd pleaser.
Then McEntire slowed things down with, Falling Out of Love, which showed off her vocal dexterity and earned her prolonged applause. The sweet-voiced singer also performed a few seemingly condensed versions of some of her many No.1 hits — including Somebody Should Leave and For My Broken Heart.
Does He Love You was sung by McEntire as an electrifying duet with Canadian country singer Crystal Shawanda, who helped open the concert.
Ontario-born Shawanda, who was so great in her own right while singing Beautiful Day and You Can Let Go earlier in the evening, really let ‘er rip on this tearful ballad about two women loving the same man.
She and McEntire were such a powerhouse duo that the older singer gave the up-and-coming one her due by allowing her to bask in the applause for a while. And it probably doesn’t get much better than sharing a bow with Reba for Shawanda, who had earlier revealed that performing on the same bill as McEntire was “a dream come true.”
Another surprise appearance was made by scene-stealing comedian Melissa Peterman, who played Barbara Jean on the Reba TV series.
While Peterman opened the concert with jokes about her pitfalls in parenting, Peterman made an unexpected stage reappearance just before McEntire was to sing the I’m a Survivor theme song from her TV show.
In one of her funnier bits, Peterman told one of McEntire’s musicians that he looked like Zac Efron if she squints her eyes, “and I’ve got to squint them pretty good — almost like my eyes are shut.”
The audience heard no shortage of other McEntire hits, including Consider Me Gone, Nothing to Lose (with great spotlight playing from the band’s guitarists and fiddle players), The Greatest Man I Never Knew, which left few dry eyes in the house, and the Why Haven’t I Heard from You sing-along.
But everyone was waiting for something — and that something finally happened when McEntire performed her signature hit, Fancy, while walking down electric light-up stairs in a red spangled dress as the encore.
It was the perfect show closer — and guess what? McEntire got another standing-O. How about that?