Toby Keith celebrates beer, Solo cups and America at the Iowa State Fair

Published on August 16th, 2013 | by Joe Lawler

If you drank a $6 beer every time country superstar Toby Keith sang one of his drinking songs Thursday night at the Iowa State Fair, you would probably be broke and near death. Which would make for a good Toby Keith song.

Keith’s Hammer Down tour drew 9,417 whiskey girls and consumers of beverages in red Solo cups to the Grandstand. It was a cool evening for August, but that didn’t deter the party spirit.

It was an evening of fireworks and flashes of fire. Beer, America and cowboys were recurring themes (in order of frequency), and the logo for Keith’s sponsor, Ford, was prominently featured in several of the videos that accompanied his songs.

Keith set the mood with his first song, “Haven’t Had a Drink All Day,” bringing the crowd to its feet to stand in front of rarely-used seats. From there he went into “American Ride” and “Made in America,” but pro-drinking songs easily outnumbered pro-America ones two to one.

Keith has found his niche celebrating the working-class drinking crowd, and it works for a fun night. He’s Kenny Chesney with more edge, fusing “Tear in My Beer” style songs with more populist sentiment.

Opening the show was Georgia artist Kip Moore, who sings with straightforward country style, but is backed by a band more akin to Journey’s classic rock. Moore’s music got the crowd moving from the first song, and he knew how to work them well, venturing out amongst them with a wireless mic to sing the song “Fly Again.”

Maybe the weakest moment in the show was Keith singing a duet via video screen with Willie Nelson on “Beer for My Horses.” While the song works on album and when they’re together, it would have come across stronger in a solo setting with Keith handling both parts, or utilizing one of his backing musicians.

Keith’s probably lucky that Jimmy Buffett wasn’t able to record “Red Solo Cup” with him, giving Keith a centerpiece song for his show that doesn’t require a pre-recorded bit from Buffett. Keith didn’t try to tackle his new duet with Buffett, :”Too Drunk to Karaoke,” without the pirate. That’s probably for the best.

To end his set, Keith brought two soldiers on stage, one draped in a flag, to stand with him while he sang “American Soldier” and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” The men were embraced by the singer and warmly received by the crowd. Before leaving for the night he left the audience with this message: “Never apologize for being patriotic.”

About the Author

Joe Lawler covers music and more for Juice Magazine. E-mail him at or follow his updates on Twitter @JoeLawler

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