Atkins a Crowd-Pleaser in Opening Concert

You can't go wrong as a country singer belting out tunes about loving America, babies, tractors, guns and kids selling lemonade. And during Friday night's concert at the Colorado State Fair, country star Rodney Atkins didn't take a wrong step anywhere.

From the moment the lights came up on his dual-ramp stage, Atkins was ready - posed at the top in a wide-legged straddle. His hit song, "It's America," got right down to business, to the delight of the crowd of 5,108 at the Budweiser Rodeo Arena.

"It's a high school prom, it's a Springsteen song, it's a ride in a Chevrolet . . ." Adkins sang, his trademark ball cap curled dramatically around his eyes. The crowd on the arena dirt cheered its approval as Atkins worked one end of the stage and then another, his voice strong and clear.

Atkins has climbed the ladder of country stardom with a song list of tunes that are unabashedly patriotic, sentimental or honky-tonk funny, plus an easy charm he put on display for the Fair crowd.

"What's up, Pueblo?" he called out after the first two numbers and got a roar of greeting in return. "We just made ourselves right at home here all day long and we thank you. We love Colorado." Could the guy be any nicer? None of the old rock ’n’ roll, tear-the-hotel-down lyrics for Atkins. He likes love songs. He said so.

"This interviewer asked me why I never wrote love songs," Atkins joked with the arena crowd. Then he named several of his best-known tunes - "It's America" and "Cleaning This Gun" - saying they were certainly love songs to his way of thinking. The cheers from the crowd said they understood completely.

The concert included hits from Atkins' first albums as well as his newest material. They included "Simple Things" and "About the South." His back-up band was solid, full of the pedal-steel tones and strong electric leads that characterize country music today.

Early in the show, Atkins called for his crew to turn up the arena lights so he could take a closer look at the happy crowd at his feet.

"Look at you all. You're beautiful," he called out.

No wonder they love him.