The 8,000-plus fans of Reba McEntire knew they would get a great show at the i wireless Center on Thursday night from the Queen of Country.
But what they might not have expected was to be equally entertained by her ladies-in-waiting.
McEntire kicked off her “All the Women I Am” tour at the i wi on Thursday night, her eighth appearance in the Moline arena. Aside from some tentative steps early in the show, Reba held court throughout the night with a blend of her hits, anecdotes and memories of her Oklahoma upbringing.
She made her first appearance behind a silver-to-transparent curtain that hung off an arch, with her silhouetted on the top row of the stage, and she gradually came closer to the audience as the curtain opened as she struck into the title song of her album and the current tour.
McEntire even went above her allotted 90-minute time frame, with a succession of her hits, sometimes rapid-fire and other times that came with heartfelt and sometimes funny introductions.
The 56-year-old’s voice is still sterling, hitting the high notes of her hits with ease.
The set was pure eye candy, with a rounded video screen in the background and a visual combination of fence posts, barns and four separate glass orbs, hanging like jingle bells.
The highlight of the night may have been the surprise appearance of Kimberly Perry, singer for opening act The Band Perry, who arrived to sing the other half of the 1990s Reba duet “Does He Love You?” The 28-year-old held her own with the veteran, even prompting some mock scowls from McEntire.
In her group’s own 35-minute set, Perry was gushing with charisma and stage presence, sandwiched between her younger brothers and making a statement with a variety of tunes, including breaking into Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” in the middle of the band’s song “Independence.” Brother Neil took over for one song, taking the lead on Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.”
Prior to The Band Perry was the country duo Steel Magnolia, although male half Joshua Scott Jones was absent (and may have been acknowledged only in some garbled goodbyes) and in rehab for alcohol and substance abuse. His partner and fiancee Meghan Linsey soldiered on and was joined early on in a surprise appearance by singer-songwriter James Otto. Otto performed “In Color,” the song he co-wrote with singer Jamey Johnson, and Linsey joined him for Otto’s No. 1 hit, “Just Got Started Loving You.” He then returned the favor by backing her on Steel Magnolia’s No. 1, “Keep on Loving You.”
Linsey, like Kimberly Perry, has an unmistakable confidence in her onstage performance. She also has fashion guts, wearing a green-and-black top, a black short-short skirt and black and green plumage all around.
The Arkansas bluegrass-country-rock trio Eden’s Edge opened the night, with some impressive vocals by Hannah Blaylock on “Blue Moon of ... Illinois.” (Change the state to the location you’re at, keep the fans happy.)
All of the performers gathered on stage for the finale, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Living in the USA.” Reba made her only costume change of the night (going from a cocoa-colored top over black pants to a red, sparkling, low-cut knee-length dress), and energized the crowd for a trip home.
It was an impressive debut for the tour, and fans were excited to get the first glance.