It was a homecoming of sorts on Thursday at The Joint, as longtime country singer Ronnie Dunn came back to his roots with his first solo show in Tulsa since leaving super-duo Brooks and Dunn. Before pairing up with Kix Brooks and taking the country music world by storm for 20-years, Dunn cut his teeth in the honky tonks in Tulsa. Thursday’s show was a throwback to his early days, and featured not only a great set of music but also a few stories from Dunn about his career in the music business and family life.
As the house lights went down and a black curtain with his name lit up, Dunn walked onto the stage to greet the crowd. “Oklahoma!,” he said. “I love Oklahoma, and I love you.” He also wasted little time cracking a joke about his previous project. “The last time we played here was at the BOK Center and we had a bunch of trucks. In the divorce I got an old semi, but I’ve got real good players, real good drivers, real good engineers, and a real good lighting guy,” Dunn said of the duo‘s break-up. He then kicked the night off, telling the audience, “as long as you’re out there and we’re up here, y’all push us a little bit and we can show off.”
At that point guitars, keyboards and drums kicked in and the show began. Dunn led off the night with two songs off of his debut solo album, “Singer In A Cowboy Band,” and “Let The Cowboy Rock.” Dunn immediately had the crowd with him, urging them to “stand up” during the second song. It wouldn’t be all new stuff, though, as Dunn followed with Brooks and Dunn hit “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You.” In total, he would play 10 Brooks and Dunn songs.
Dunn followed another brief story with the catchy, mariachi style “How Far to Waco,” then tore through a portion of the Brooks and Dunn catalog. “Red Dirt Road,” led it off before a younger couple jumped up from the front row and danced to “Neon Moon.” Dunn’s story about buying a horse for his daughter, paying too much money for the horse and subsequently having to give the horse away led into “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” before he played “Johnny Cash Junkie (Buck Owens Freak).”
Photos by: Kevin Pyle
He then performed a soulful cover of Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me,” prompting the crowd to give him a standing ovation. “Cost of Livin’” followed before Dunn took off into another stretch of Brooks and Dunn songs. The crowd sang along to “Play Something Country,” before several women made their way to the stage to shake hands with Dunn while he performed “Put A Girl In It.”
Reliving his early days in Tulsa, Dunn then gave the audience another story that he said took place “before Taylor Swift was born and when John Travolta was skinny.” He talked about playing clubs in Tulsa and having to sneak original songs into his set because bar owners wanted cover songs to keep patrons dancing.
“We’d sneak this one in at the last of the set, then people would come up to us and ask us to play it again and I’m thinking there might be something to it,” he said before taking off into “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
“My Maria” followed with streamers exploding from cannons posted on the sides of the stage and falling onto the crowd below before Dunn thanked everyone and left the stage. A lengthy standing ovation brought the singer back to the stage where he then closed out the show with “Bleed Red,” and “Honky Tonk Stomp.”
Dunn was very entertaining and sounded excellent. The show was definitely scaled back from his Brooks and Dunn days, but Dunn seemed to be even more at home in his new role. Being back in his old stomping grounds certainly didn’t hinder his ability to put on a fantastic show. It was good to have him home again.