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Lonestar plays at Maryland Theatre

April 17, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Six songs into Lonestar's first set Sunday at the Maryland Theater, several smiling faces fell onto the stage.

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Richie McDonald, the country band's lead singer, was unfazed. The yellow plastic balls were part of the act. He took one of them and sat down on a step, holding it between his knees.

Its cheerful expression was visible to the audience as McDonald bowed his head to sing Lonestar's ballad, "Smile."

The lyrics made the song bittersweet with such lines as, "Even if it kills me, I'm gonna smile." But the singer seemed to feel no pain when he rose to throw a few of those happy props to the crowd.

Approximately 1,300 people responded to the band with cheers and applause throughout the performance. Lonestar played two shows, both of which were almost sold out, according to the box office.

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The Sunday afternoon show began with "Saturday Night," a plucky romp that roused the crowd. Although Lonestar has four members, it performed as a seven-piece band. The added strings, especially the bright green fiddle, fleshed out its clean sound.

The band began actively, punctuating the opening number with a lot of movement. During solos, musicians danced to the front of the stage as McDonald climbed the drum's risers.

Keyboard player Dean Sams jammed and gyrated, throwing his hips with enough swagger to please Elvis. He also belted out harmonies on the headset tucked under his black cowboy hat, adding to the group's impressive harmony.

The band led with several hits, including the new single, "What About Now." Between songs, McDonald referred to an open-air performance in Westminster, Md., when bad weather marred the music.

"I can assure you of one thing that's not going to happen this afternoon. It's not going to rain in this building," he joked. The singer also thanked fans repeatedly for their support. He later said of the band's success, "This goes way beyond our wildest dreams."

After "You Don't Know What Love Is," Lonestar played the chart-topping song, "Everything's Changed" and McDonald localized the lyrics.

The line about a highway leading to Santa Fe became, "That Westbound to Hagerstown don't stop here anymore," eliciting whoops from the crowd.

Lonestar played "Lonely Grill," the title track of their third album, which went double platinum. With its refraining riff of somber guitar and the plaintive undercurrent of violin, the song demonstrated the band's breadth is more than dance tunes and love songs.

Originally called Texassee, Lonestar formed in Nashville, Tenn., in 1992, according to the band's Web site. The name came from the members' origins - they grew up in different parts of Texas, the Lone Star State.

They toured and performed together for a few years before releasing a live CD and a debut single, "Tequila Talkin'" in 1995. While their latest hit, "Amazed," is attracting a lot of new fans, Sunday's crowd included older ones, also.

Erica and Sheila Steczak of Lancaster, Pa., said they've been fans for two years. "They're really down-to-earth. They're very nice people," said Sheila Steczak.

David and Kathy Wilson of Stafford, Va., said they've liked Lonestar for four years. Their 7-year-old daughter, Kelli, was enthusiastically jumping along with the music. "It's great," she said, smiling. The singer had the young fan star-struck.

"I got to meet Richie," she said.

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