Gretchen Wilson

When you're the only Grammy winner on a blues, reggae and rock bill there's little need to frock up - especially if you've sold more than four million copies of your first album.

And, equally so, if you pulled beers in Illinois honky tonks at 15 with a shotgun under the bar for back-up.

Just whack on a pair of faded jeans, a tee shirt and boots and strut your stuff with the boys in the band.

Hell yeah, that's our type of belle.

Gretchen Wilson finished a riveting set just as refried rock writers arrived to relive a past they may or may not have seen.

They missed legendary Sydney singer songwriter Richard Clapton reprise songs that have stood the test of time with memorable lyrics and hooks.

And, of course, they didn't see roots maestro Michael Franti echo the sentiments of the day by not only pleading for Tolerance in song but exuding a generosity foreign to many rock peers by sharing his 40 minutes with a 16 year old guitarist he discovered at a local gig.

Franti also walked the walk by inviting beat boxer Joel Turner to return and strut his stuff to a bigger audience than he enjoyed at high noon.

Fans would not have been surprised that Franti, replete with video clip of his Iraq soul search and rescue mission, had a humility amplified in strolls through a chuffed crowd mid-song.

With the dexterity of an Olympic hurdler he didn't miss a beat as he leaped back on stage or returned beyond the mosh pit when his set finished.

Franti was the perfect entrée to a Grammy winning novitiate left to raise the country flag for an audience deprived of headliner Willie Nelson at the 11th hour.

Those who couldn't dispose of their tickets to Johnny Farnham fans found solace in Wilson and her rocking seven-piece country band.

It mattered little that Wilson was performing to an audience raised on rock radio and now reduced to tuning in and out of hits and memories mausoleums.

Or twirling the community radio dial trying to find country music oases in the sea of schmaltz, rap, dance, jazz, blues and bovver boy ablutions.

This meant Wilson had the premier poll position on the Tsunami gig - with a crowd primed by her predecessors.

And right before Peter Hosking lookalike Shane Bourne, his Telstra jokes and Johnny Farnham.

It meant country fans, with little desire to relive the rock past, could beat a retreat and the Sabbath traffic.


Wilson suffered a rock mix with her vocals buried beneath guitars and drums in her spirited entrée Homewrecker.

But by the time she changed pace for her paean to drinking When It Rains, I Pour we were blessed with the mixer finding the fiddle and pedal steel.

And so it was when Wilson treated her audience to new blue-collar anthem Politically Uncorrect about a sinner who finally believes in blood and sweat above fools' gold.

There was a silence of sorts when she announced her assertive love song and chart single, When I Think About Cheating.

Cheating may have been a conduit to refried rock fans but they didn't often sing about it with the passion of Wilson.

And, for those critics who admitted ignorance by professing to knowing nothing about the singer, she told them her life story in Pocahontas Proud.

"At 15 I was tending Big O's bar/ I'd sing till 2 am for a half full tip jar."

Wilson introduced The Bed as one of the greatest songs ever written - it didn't flow from her pen but the intro ensured it connected with all those lovers neglected by an insensitive partner.

Gretchen said she wasn't sure how the audience would take her next song.

She said: "You know the Beach Boys song, California Girls? Well, this isn't that song. The name of the song is California Girls, however.

Wilson's song lampooned airhead west and east coast wenches and their faux high-class living and it mentioned Paris Hilton.

The singer also chanced her arm and voice with a preview of her boozed fuelled title track of her second unreleased album All Jacked Up.

It's debatable whether this connected with the rock refugees in this outdoor beer and wine mine but the country fans got it.

"Do we have any rednecks in the audience?" she asked before riveting renditions of her breakthrough hit Redneck Woman.

There were a few "Hell Yeahs" from the country fans - especially when she closed her set with her debut disc title track Here For The Party.

For Wilson it was an energetic entrée to an audience that will build on surrogate radio - popular Pay TV channel CMC, Nu Country TV, Dig Country on-line and ABC and community radio.

The singer, now 31 and a huge international star, proved she and Franti were the most relevant artists on a bill heavy on rock nostalgia.

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