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REVIEW: Steve Earle at Choctaw Casino

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19 December, 2018 By Laurinda Joenks

"You're probably thinking by now that we're going to sing you every song on Copperhead Road," Steve Earle told his audience Saturday night in Pocola, Okla. "We are."

Earle, along with his band, The Dukes, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the album with his next release. True to his word, he sang the complete play list, including his one Christmas song, "Nothing But a Child." Earle was among a group of friends trying to write Christmas songs one July for an Oak Ridge Boys Christmas album, the singer told the audience.

Earle is like the "Energizer Bunny." At 63, he obviously still loves performing, and it showed throughout his two-hour show. Although the crowd seemingly didn't know or care how to call for an encore, Earle and his band reappeared anyway.

"I've waited 43 years to play this song," Earle told the Oklahoma and Arkansas crowd. In "Ben McCulloch," he sang the ballad of a foot soldier in the Civil War. The soldier and his brother signed up in Texas to fight for the Confederacy under Gen. Ben McCulloch, who lost his life in the Battle of Pea Ridge. The brother was killed in fighting at Wilson's Creek near Springfield, Mo.

Earle has been a leader and staunch supporter of American roots music. He hosts a popular weekly show on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country station. This summer he toured with other legends Lucinda Williams and Dwight Yoakam.

Folks in Northwest Arkansas believed they'd never see their hero perform live.

Lasonia Bray, regional marketing manager for Choctaw Casinos, said, to schedule its live shows, upper management reaches out to artists' management and vice versa. The artists typically are touring and book smaller shows as they pass through the area.

The casino offered the concert free to its Player's Club members, with the playing card the only ticket to attendance. Earle attracted 685 guests, leaving plenty of room left in the Center Stage concert venue to move around, buy beer and even dance. No one was turned away, and only those who arrived before the seats opened at 7 p.m. had to stand in line, Bray said.

Bray said the casino offers these concerts "for the region. We try to give our guests entertainment they are lacking in the area," she said.

The Choctaw Casino also impressed. A beautiful Christmas tree greeted guests, and the staff was friendly as visitors signed up to game. Before the 7 p.m. opening of the Central Stage doors for the concert, the casino didn't seem to be as smoke-filled as most, and the gamblers looked less desperate than those seen at other casinos in the region.

In addition to the Center Stage concerts, a Gilley's bar in the casino also offers live music, along with food. The food choices include a sports bar, a buffet, a lounge and a cafe.

And just over the Arkansas state line near Fort Smith, Pocola is an easy hour's drive from Northwest Arkansas.


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