Saddledome, Calgary - March 17, 2008

THERESA TAYLER - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:47 AM ET

CALGARY - Sorry boys, this one's for the girl -- but you're welcome to sing along, too.

Straight-laced Martina McBride is known for her fun-loving, female-infused, country tunes. Think, God Fearin' Women Get the Blues and This One's For the Girls, just to name a few.

That's not to say the beautiful blue-eyed babe doesn't have an equal number of male followers.

Last night at the Saddledome, everyone - men, women, little boys and girls -- were toe-tapping and singing along.

McBride, a mother of three, wouldn't have it any other way. And with all the Wrangler-wearing men of country rolling through Calgary lately - Keith Urban and Brad Paisley are among the big draws the 'Dome has hosted in the past year - it's nice to catch one of the genre's most celebrated female acts on her own trip through town.

McBride hit the stage last night with a blast, opening the door for Taylor Swift, Nashville's newest starlett, who will follow up on the same stage, same time next week.

McBride has no trouble taking on a hockey arena, easily filling up the cold concrete venue with her warm soprano vocals and down-to-earth songs.

Calgary was the first stop on the Canadian leg of her Waking Up Laughing tour.

"I get the feeling I picked the right place to kick this off," joked McBride with the appreciative crowd of cheering country fans.

Her first ballad of the evening was Anyway, followed by God Fearin' Women and a slew of other hits including a cover of (I never promised you a) Rose Garden, first performed by Lynn Anderson in the early '70s.

With 7,500 tickets sold for last night's show, McBride didn't quite sell out the 'Dome.

She's been doing the country-music thing for more than 15 years, and while she hasn't hit the fame of, say, Shania Twain or Faith Hill, her steady career is a testament to her talent-fuelled longevity as an artist.

The Kansas-born and bred singer was backed by a solid seven-piece band, including a fiddler and keyboardist.

While the stage boasted an impressive set of screens and lights, McBride's show wasn't dominated by flashy bells and whistles or over-exuberant stage effects.

Scottish-Canadian Johnny Reid opened the show followed by Nashville quartet, Little Big Town.

It was a diverse concert for fans who got their money's worth out of the three-act bill.

Reid has toured with some of country's biggest stars, including Dwight Yoakam, Brad Paisley and Carolyn Dawn Johnson.

Little Big Town have also built up their resume over the years. The group has been together since the late '90s. Karen Fairchild is clearly the pipes behind the four-piece (two female/two male) act of vocal harmonists who ended their set with their 2005 hit, Boondocks.

Here's looking forward to Taylor Swift's show with Rascal Flatts next week.


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