Saturday, May 6, 2006 | 7:43 a.m.
Who: Reba McEntire
When: 9 tonight ; 8 p.m. Sunday
Returns: June 7-11, 14-18; July 19-23, 26-30; Aug. 24-26
Where: Las Vegas Hilton Theater
Rating (out of five stars): *****
If you're looking for an edgy, over-the top show that pushes the envelope - this isn't it.
But if you want an evening of pure entertainment by a woman who is pure country, you can't go wrong with Reba McEntire, one of the nation's top-selling recording artists with 22 No. 1 songs to her credit.
There are few surprises in the 90-minute concert at the Las Vegas Hilton.
The star of Broadway ("Annie Get Your Gun"), film ("Tremors") and television ("Reba") plays it safe by sticking with the hits, many of which can be found among the 33 on her latest album ("Reba #1's") .
McEntire premiered at the Hilton on Wednesday, kicking off the first of several engagements.
Her first Las Vegas concert run ends Sunday. She then returns in June, July and August.
McEntire has had incredible success since leaving the hills of southeast Oklahoma in the late 1970s to pursue a career in music. She is a gracious, unpretentious performer who embraces her fans and her music with sincerity.
McEntire doesn't fly across the stage, drop from the ceiling, shoot off fireworks or use a chorus of scantily clad showgirls to add spice to her act.
She does it the old-fashioned way - with her heartfelt songs and a back-up band that is about as good as it gets. The group includes band leader Doug Sisemore (keyboards/vocals); Tommy Harden (drums/vocals); Spady Brannan (bass); Bruce Bouton (steel guitar) and Jim Kimball (guitar/harmonica). Also, Curtis Wright (guitar/vocals); Jeff King (guitar); John Jarvis (piano); Tammy Rogers (fiddle/mandolin/guitar/vocals) and Carmella Ramsey (fiddle/ saxophone/vocals).
The mix of fiddles, mandolins, guitars, steel guitars, drums, pianos, keyboards and even a saxophone bring McEntire's music to life.
Dressed simply in black slacks and top, McEntire paced the stage throughout the evening singing songs as if they were directed at each individual fan.
While the majority of her songs were from the "#1's" album, she opened with "We're So Good Together" from the 1999 album "So Good Together."
Although she sometimes paused between numbers to chat, mostly she went directly from one song to another - there were so many that there was little time to waste.
McEntire sang more than 20 songs, or portions of songs, that have become classics over the years - from her first No. 1 record "Can't Even Get the Blues No More" (1982) to her last, "Somebody" (2004).
Throughout the night she kept belting out the hits: "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" ('95), "You Lie" ('90), "Little Rock" ('86), "Rumor Has It" ('91), "Walk On" ('90), "Is There Life Out There" ('92) and "Whoever's in New England" ('86), to name a few.
McEntire pulled four numbers from her 2003 album, "Room to Breathe" - "My Sister," "I'm Gonna Take That Mountain," "Moving Oleta" and "Love Revival."
The only suspense of the evening, albeit manufactured suspense, came at the end of the show when she left the stage and the fans gave her a standing ovation, pleading with her to return.
Eventually she did, following a costume change, to perform her 1990 hit "Fancy," which was a hit for Bobbie Gentry in 1970.
There was nothing fancy about the evening with McEntire, just simple, down-to-earth entertainment.