On June 17th, country music star Tracy Lawrence Played a show for the troops at NAS Pensacola. The third in the annual “Summer Salute” series produced by the NAS MWR department (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) , also included an opening set by local artist Rusty Whitfield and regional artist Todd O’Neill.
Rusty Whitfield seemed to have his work cut out for him as her took the stage to a crowd who had endured the oppressive heat and humidity through multiple sound checks. As he took the stage, enthusiasm in the crowd seemed in short supply. Hot and tired, the audience as a whole didn’t seem to know what to expect from this guy with the cowboy hat and the acoustic guitar. Rusty worked hard to fire them all up and by the end of his set it was “mission accomplished.” Even a local country music radio personality who was unfamiliar with Rusty’s work said that he was “pleasantly surprised” and looks forward to hearing more from him.
Next up was singer Todd O’Neill. In from Hammond, Louisiana, Todd was no stranger to the hot, humid climate and he didn’t let it slow him down at all. Todd’s high-energy show picked up where Rusty’s left off and kept the crowd fired up for great music. As the sun sank lower and the crowd grew, Todd worked to make sure they knew that they were there for great music and he finished his set with the same enthusiasm and energy he had when he first took the stage.
Finally, as the sun set, the headliner took to the stage. Playing a set that was essentially a snapshot of his career, Tracy played songs from virtually all of his albums and CDs, with his latest CD, The Rock, being conspicuously absent. Admittedly, that album was more of a personal project and a bit of a departure from his usual mainstream country, but at least one song from it would have been nice. That said, he did not disappoint. Tracy put on the kinda of quality performance you expect from a performer of that caliber. Off-stage right before the show, he seemed in great spirits and ready to put on the best show he could for the troops. He even made faces at the TV camera as he walked past it onto the stage. Throughout the entire show, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself and as usual, meant great entertainment for the audience.
This event was free for military and public alike. As the show was primarily for the benefit of the military, tickets were more readily available to those with DoD Ids but civilians could access tickets with very little of effort. The MWR department is entirely self-funded and tax dollars are not supplied for these events. Thanks to the sponsors; Cat Country 98.7, Papa John’s Pizza, and Pensacola’s Kia Autosport for making this event possible.