On a day when Milwaukee could really use some cheering up, the Band Perry brought a foot-stomping good time to State Fair.
It is ironic that the band's biggest radio smash is the beautifully-composed but depressing single "If I Die Young." Though included in the set list, the song was all but buried in the third quarter of the evening. And the band â€“ comprised of siblings Neil, Reid and Kimberly Perry â€“ didn't seem that enthusiastic about performing it at all; they even looked to be a little tired of the hit.
But the rest of their music was delivered with typical Nashville gusto. The band has cranked out plenty of hits, but they aren't enough of a household name to have been pushed to go too "crossover" yet - so this was a show by country fans, for country fans.
"We're from eastern Tennessee," Kimberley told the crowd early on in the evening. "That's where the banjos and the hillbillies come from."
On the Band Perry's recorded tracks, it's always the music that is most impressive. The trio are capable songwriters, and frankly this oftentimes outshines their vocal abilities. It isn't the case they perform live, however. Especially on their most recent hit, "All Your Life," Kimberly especially set herself apart as an impressive vocalist. She blew the crowd away - almost literally - with the power of her pipes.
But then really, the show was Kimberly's to steal â€“ even from the moment the band stepped onstage. Her brothers are talented musicians, but if they have her star power they aren't given the chance to showcase it. One can't help but feel that the marketing of the siblings as one band might simply be because it's not likely that Kimberly â€“ as talented as she is â€“ could make it big in a genre flooded with other curly-haired blondes who write songs about their exes.
But if given the right backing, it's likely that Kimberly Perry would be unstoppable.
The siblings did an admirable team effort on Queen's "Fat-Bottomed Girls," where Neil hit some impressively high notes. It was the only moment of the evening when the audience was made to feel that perhaps Neil and Reid (who are Kimberly's former roadies when she was a solo act) have come into their own musically.
But the rest of the band's repertoire - including the upbeat "Walk Me Down the Aisle" and downright angry "You Lie" â€“ is nothing without Kimberly's saucy delivery.
Their opening act was the charming and hilarious Sunny Sweeney, an unapologetic Texan with a melodious twang that sounded like a well-tune steel guitar.
Sweeney opened her act by announcing she was going to play "my daddy's favorite song from this album" - entitled "Drink Myself Single." It was at that point that the Milwaukee decided Sunny Sweeney is the kind of country star it can really get down with, and the love-fest began.
She rode an ironic wave, swigging beer while she played guitar and talked about burning her ex's belongings. Most of her songs had to do with infidelity â€“ "You Don't Know Your Husband Like I Do" was one particularly provocative title. And good for her, really. Country music is all about raw emotion. And what's more raw than a good-for-nothing cheater?
Sweeney's got Wisconsin in her blood; her grandfather, she told the crowd, worked at Oscar Mayer for 25 years and her father was born here. But she could have even been from (gasp) Chicago, and Milwaukee would have loved her still. This girl is a gritty, deliciously acerbic Taylor Swift. Kanye wouldn't dare steal Sweeney's microphone at the VMA's.
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