Brooks & Dunn break hearts at Xcel

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Photo by Nikki Miller

Text sent to a friend, 10:28 PM:
Jesus. They have either literal graphic interpretations or actual lyrics to their songs on the jumbotron. Gross. When are you going to First Ave?

Not the sentiment I'd hoped to be expressing halfway through Brooks & Dunn's farewell performance at the Xcel Center Friday night, moments before I ditched the sold-out arena a might bit short of any sort of finale.

And to my own mother, as I was leaving? My dear, sweet mother who had taken me to see this same band at our county fair when I was just entering my most awkward stages of puberty?
This show fucking sucks. Ronnie Dunn can suck it.
(Sorry, Ronnie Dunn. I was having my period. And sorry, Mom, for my hormone-amped curse mouth.)

Mom's response:
Splitting up must be past due.

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Photo by Nikki Miller

Nearly twenty years after releasing their debut album Brand New Man (which, near and dear to my heart still features four singles that hit number one in the year to follow: "Brand New Man," "My Next Broken Heart," "Neon Moon," and - line dancing madness! - "Boot Scootin' Boogie"), Brooks & Dunn announced last year that the tour to follow would be their last. There was speculation that Ronnie Dunn (who can suck it; sorry Ronnie, I'm having my period) had been itchin' to go solo.

Jason Aldean, whose hits "Big Green Tractor" (that's a good 'un), "She's Country," and "Crazy Town" (which sound like the 93x gloss-grunge style of a band like Hoobastank or Nickleback and make me want to barf on his backing band and their spiky hair and tribal tattoos), offered an energetic set to precede Brooks & Dunn, which unfortunately wound down with a cover of Kid Rock's "Cowboy." I just can't get behind nu-country artists' fascination with nu-metal and rock rap. I mean, I get it. This is probably the crap they listen to. But I can't get behind it. In any case Aldean seems like a real sweetheart, and the gals in the audience, who seemed to me as a whole what it would look like if someone set a stick of dynamite under a pile of American Eagle surplus weathered denim skirts, plaid shirts, and never-worn-on-the-farm cowgirl boots, really dug him. And I sure do like his tractor song.

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Photo by Nikki Miller

Brooks & Dunn took the stage shortly after Aldean, and to much ado - flashing lights, flashy jumbo screens, three backup singers, an enormous backdrop featuring two scantily-clad, "vintage" cowgirls atop bucking horses, a giant steer skull emblem atop the stage and another steer skull disco ball to be later dropped, and the crowd going absolutely nuts.

Lemme take you back to the Brooks & Dunn I saw at the county fair, then just a year into their career. That Brooks & Dunn played songs with country style, not pop sheen (and yeah, I'm talkin' songs like "Boot Scootin' Boogie," the pop sound of which pales in comparison to the slippery stuff they've put out since). That Brooks & Dunn played in the middle of a dusty field at dusk, the dry South Dakota summer wind whipping through their then likely thicker hair, that same field having been used for a rodeo, demolition derby and stock-car race at other points during the week. That Brooks & Dunn had heart and it had soul. That Brooks & Dunn dressed less Los Nashvilles and more Garth Brooks rodeo.

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Photo by Nikki Miller

This new Brooks & Dunn, just shy of throwing in the hat as a duo, was slick. Plastic. Forced. Choreographed. But then, that's the price of success. You keep playing to small crowds at county fairs, and you're nowhere-bound. You wanna play a sellout arena? I guess it takes all that glitz to keep that many people, whether they be one of the thousands in an arena or one of the hundreds of thousands to buy your album, engaged over two decades.

I couldn't take it. I learned quickly that seeing them live is different from popping in their greatest hits and skipping over anything not from their first two albums. And while Kix Brooks, the dark-haired half of the duo, had the same heart I remembered from '92 in the songs he sang Friday night, Dunn was largely unconvincing and out of tune. And who's the one supposedly breakin' 'em up for a solo career? Good luck with that. (Sorry Ronnie. I'm having my period.) But to be fair, those songs I love are what first made them famous; the countless hits from the ensuing fifteen years that are making an arena full of drunk girls sing and sway along are what sustained that fame.

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Photo by Nikki Miller

As for me, I left my American Eagle-wear at home. I am wearing a fancy cocktail dress and high heels. I'm walking out on this to go to see GAYNGS.

This breaks my heart. And I am especially prone to heartbreak right now, Ronnie Dunn, as I am having my period.

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Photo by Nikki Miller

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