You know what you're going to get with a Gretchen Wilson set: no-frills, unpretentious, hard-twanging country-rock tunes - with emphasis on the rock. Her mid-afternoon set kicked off with the 2004 hit "Here For the Party." Sporting a black camisole, sparkly silver belt and jeans and big hoop earrings, the Pocahontas, Illinois, native grinned her way through the tune.
Wilson's songs about hard-working men and women - those who prefer beer and whiskey, and jeans and T-shirts, to fancier things - still don't fit into Nashville's current musical climate. If Taylor Swift is country's latest girl-next-door princess - albeit one who wears sneakers and T-shirts instead of fancy frocks - Wilson is the tough girl who's new to town, ready to corrupt with a flask of whiskey and carton of smokes.
But Wilson's bluesy, hard-rock edge - her band soundchecked with a snippet of the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and her guitarists and electric-fiddler exhibited some serious meedlee-meedlee-mee riffage later in the set - helps keep her from being pigeonholed. Newer tune 'Work Hard, Play Harder" resembled the bluesy boogie of the Black Crowes' "Jealous Again" (although so much so that the band actually sued her last year for copyright infringement) and it sounded like a bit of ZZ Top-referencing honky-tonk slipped in during "There's a Place in the Whiskey." And a shredding version of the "Star Spangled Banner" broke out after "Politically Uncorrect," as the band raised an American flag high above the stage, to riotous applause.
Wilson's voice needs no effects or manipulation to sound clear and strong, and she was clearly humbled and honored to be performing. She was clearly having tons of fun, too: Right after "All Jacked Up" she took a generous swig of Jack Daniel's, and then launched into "Redneck Woman." Clusters of women stood up around the pavillion and sang along proudly to the song's rallying cry: "Hell yeah!"
Setlist: "Here for the Party" "There's a Place in the Whiskey" "California Girls" "Work Hard, Play Harder" "Polically Uncorrect" "All Jacked Up" "Redneck Woman"