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John Lamb, Published August 03 2013

Ladies night: Big female performances wrap up WE Fest

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Carrie Underwood traveled a long way to headline the final night at WE Fest, but not as far as one Vining, Minn., woman.

Karen Nyberg, who grew up an hour south of the Soo Pass Ranch, introduced the star from the International Space Station, high above the earth.

Underwood then hit the stage in a denim shirt, jeans and cowboy boots to “Good Girl."

After two days of testosterockin’ country, Saturday was for the ladies at WE Fest, with a charismatic show from Kellie Pickler earlier in the afternoon.

“Where are my ‘Tough’ country girls at?” she called out to the crowd, introducing another one of her tough chicks songs.

Though she showed off the powerhouse voice to elevate her to diva status, she was best when spunky and feisty, showing off a mastery of the woman-done-wrong songs, like “Things that Never Cross a Man’s Mind,” “Stop Cheatin’ on Me” and “Ring for Sale.”

She particularly got the crowd engaged when she introduced her songwriting husband, Kyle Jacobs, standing on the side of the stage as, “one of y’all. He’s a Minnesotan. Yah. Oh, gee golly.”

“I’ve obviously spent too much time with my mother-in-law,” she said, laughing off her attempt at the accent.

Rucker and Rogers

Even the male performers on the bill had a definite female audience.

Darius Rucker mixed his solo country material with Hootie & the Blowfish songs.

The difference in delivery between the two sounded minimal. A banjo and dobro were added to “Only Wanna be with You” giving it a slight country twist. Others, like “Let Her Cry” sounded like the album version.

Kenny Rogers never was a dynamic stage presence in his prime, so his limited motion at age 74 didn’t hinder an entertaining set.

He may physically show his age, but his voice hasn’t lost much, sounding almost as crackly and warm as his beard looks.

Playing a mostly best-of show, Rogers kept the hits coming, going back to his First Edition days and “Just Stopped in (to See What Condition my Condition was in),” complete with vintage performance footage of the group in the late 1960s on the jumbotron. “The Gambler” got a similar treatment with clips from all of the made-for-TV movies Rogers starred in.

After a medley of his ‘80s ballads – “Through the Years,” “You Decorated My Life” and “She Believes in Me” – Rogers delivered a spirited “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town”.

The crowd loved it, but the singer jokingly chided them for singing poorly.

“That was ugly. That was worse than Quebec,” he said. “And they don’t even speak English there.

Rogers played the cranky old man for laughs again after “Lucille.”

“For God’s sake, quit swaying,” he told the crowd. You look like a thousand Ray Charles.”

Rogers said that he usually ends the set with the song, walks off stage only to return for an encore. Instead, he joked that at his age he’s learned to save his steps. So, maybe he has lost a step, but his voice is still his winning hand.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533