Toby Keith rolled into the First Niagara Pavilion on Friday night courtesy of the Ford Motor Co. and the red, white and brew.
The big strapping country singer from Oklahoma with the bold baritone was already well stocked with beer-drinkin' anthems, and for this Live in Overdrive tour he's added even a few more to the party.
And what a party it was in the fields of Burgettstown.
The annual Keith show is one of the summer's rowdy drunk nights at the Pavilion, fueled by the singer's rugged flag-waving, beer-swilling, boot-up-the-butt all-American spirit, which he tops with a rather wacky self-deprecating sense of humor.
Although he's got the voice for it, he doesn't bore you with ballads on his way to a good time.
He opened like it was the Fourth of July with the fiddle-driven "American Ride" (co-written by longtime Pittsburgh folk-rocker Dave Pahanish) and "Made in America," the stage filling with fog, fire, fireworks, a colorful jukebox light design and the big Ford logo.
His patriotic credentials established, the smiling singer, in a black cowboy shirt and white cowboy hat, got on to the roadhouse drinking songs, including his new brassy, honky-tonk single "I Like Girls That Drink Beer" -- a message that surely shocks the world.
He paused to call Pittsburgh "one of my favorite cities in the world," declare himself an "old-school Steelers fan" and praise the fans for "hanging out on a summer night and listening to redneck music." Make that redneck music that occasionally ventures to Ireland or New Orleans.
After rumbling through "Beers Ago," the top-shelf funny "Weed With Willie," "Whiskey Girl" and various other comical songs either about booze or women, he got around to "Red Solo Cup," his joyous talk-sung ode to the favored drink receptacle of a kegger. He had his own trusty red Solo cup (all night!), dancing girls with cups, big inflatable cups, animated cups and fans waving cups as they shouted along.
Besides promoting beer, Ford and Solo, he had some other themes going as well: He touched on middle-age blues with "As Good As I Once Was," the battle of the sexes with "I Wanna Talk About Me" (complete with rapped verses), missed opportunities with "Should've Been a Cowboy" and what sounded like date rape with "Get Out of My Car."
After getting Willie Nelson in there (on video) on "Beer for My Horses" and after closing with a long jam on Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold," he saluted the military and America's fighting spirit, closing with "American Soldier" and "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."
Although Mr. Keith never served himself -- those years were spent working in an oil field, playing football and then working country bars -- he's earned the right having taken his party overseas for more than 200 military shows.
Opener Brantley Gilbert, an up-and-comer in the scene, made his case for future headlining status with a gritty style reminiscent of early Steve Earle.
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576. First Published July 28, 2012 4:00 AM