The 2016 Interstates & Tailgates tour pulled into Tinley Park’s Hollywood Casino Amphitheater. Along with Toby Keith was Eric Paslay. But as the show was about to kick off, the rains began to come down. With the chance of showers forecasted, the amphitheater had been watching the weather. When the storm blew up on the radar and lightning started, the staff acted with speed to evacuate the crowd. Paslay cancelled his appearance after the start of the show got delayed two and a half hours.
Toby Keith has entered a new phase in his career. Multi-platinum record sales and weeks at the top of the charts, add to that stacks of televised performances, magazine covers, and Entertainer of the year awards couldn’t compare to the one honor that Toby Keith had always wanted. In June of 2015 he got inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. “I’ve been writing songs every day of my life since I was 15 or 16.” Keith says, “ I don’t think I could go back and rewrite ‘Should Have Been A Cowboy’ and make it any better. There are little things every once in a while you think you could change, but most of the time there ain’t a word I could fix.”
“I had to write 500 songs before I wrote a great one” he states. “Now it didn’t take 500 more to write the next one. So you start closing that window down. Then I’m hanging out with two or three other great songwriters and you start to feel like you’re only a great idea away from a great song.” Almost all the songs on his new album, 35 mph Town, got written while Toby and some of his songwriter friends stayed in his Mexican home.
“Drunk Americans” is the only song on Keith’s new album, 35 mph Town, he did not write. “The second I heard it I knew I had to cut it… It’s well-written with a nice waltz tempo, it’s a drinking song with a good little message: Everyone needs to get along and drink a cold beer.”
As the lightning stopped last night, the speakers went up. Toby came out like there was no delay, starting with “Haven’t Had a Drink All Day” and “American Ride”. The set list was over 20 songs long, including many of his greatest hits. Among the songs was a tribute to Merle Haggard and a great cover of “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent.
Toby noticed three women in the crowd, all wearing T-shirts indicating that their husbands were deployed in the Middle East. Toby broke out his guitar and played “Ballad of Balad”, despite it not being on the original set list. His band mates standing in the darkness as the spotlight fell on the headliner.
As is tradition with Toby Keith, he closed with a tribute to the US military by bring up current service members and family members from the audience. “American Soldier” and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” closed the concert.