They made headlines together at the start of the year as two of the few known acts to play President Donald Trump’s inaugural parties, but Toby Keith and 3 Doors Down still made for pretty strange musical bedfellows teaming up at the Great Minnesota Get-Together on Sunday.
At a fair where mini-donut beer and deep-fried candy bars are part of the lexicon, perhaps it made a little sense having the melodic hard-rockers open for the enduring Oklahoma roughneck. Grandstand headliners themselves twice in the early-’00s, 3DD did have an inordinate number of fans singing along to “Kryptonite” and other hits. Still, the extra-metallic “Duck and Run” and set-closer “When I’m Gone” left quite a few of the 11,061 grandstand-goers looking shell-shocked.
As for the politics behind their pairing, 3DD singer Brad Arnold — sporting a St. Paul Police K-9 team T-shirt — made a blanket shout-out to military and public-safety members but otherwise stuck to talking about things 9-year-old girls discuss at the fair (i.e., how much he liked the pretty horses and cotton candy there).
Keith’s two-hour set started with what amounted to a two-minute ad for his tour sponsor, Ford. After the rowdy opening songs “Haven’t Had a Drink All Day” and “American Ride,” another video showing off a Ford truck assembly line was screened during “Made in America.”
Twenty-four years since the release of his debut album, Keith, 56, and his workingman/booze formula is as polished and by-the-book as an F150 rolling off the line. His God-fearing heathenistic live set works especially well at the fair, where he has headlined four times in the past decade and a half.
There were a few new twists this time, starting with his latest single “Wacky Tobaccy.”
“I’m smelling a little of that Minnesota purple burning up in here,” he yelled as he lit up what amounted to his second most gimmicky novelty song — after the hit “Red Solo Cup,” of course, which he played with a phoned-in playfulness halfway through the set.
In another new-ish aspect of the set, the country vet brought a three-man horn section with him to help add extra boogie and swagger to “How Do You Like Me Now?” and “Beer for My Horses,” the latter featuring Willie Nelson’s recorded vocal parts (speaking of wacky tobaccy).
After paying tribute to Merle Haggard on tour last year, Keith unfortunately had the chance to update his set with a tribute to another late country hero — a “good friend and a great guitar man,” he said as he launched into Glen Campbell’s signature Jimmy Webb-penned hit “Wichita Lineman.” He sang it with admirable if not Campbell-level vocal power, too.
Keith dug a little deeper into his own catalog, dusting off the ’90s singles “Wish I Didn’t Know Now” and “Who’s That Man.” The end of the set was one big chugfest through his usual party anthems, including “Ain’t As Good as I Once Was,” “I Love This Bar” and “Whiskey Girl” before the patriotic encore finale “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue.”
Emphasizing the tried-and-true, American-strong aspects of his music may have been Keith’s way of addressing the politics of the day. He, too, avoided any actual talk of current events, in other words. Nothing wacky about that.