People at Northern Winz Casino on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation had a rare way to start their new year, as country music superstar Pam Tillis performed New Year’s Eve. “It’s great to be here,” Tillis said as she opened her show, adding, “It’s mighty cold here, but we’re going to try to heat things up.” Tillis and her three-piece band performed from 10:30 p.m. Thursday until about 12:30 a.m. New Year’s Day. Tillis, who said in a December interview she enjoys smaller shows, said after the show she had a good time, at least after some minor technical difficulties were resolved at the start. “It was a fun crowd,” she said. Fans of the artist, who had her first top-five single in 1991 and has sold more than 6 million albums, were glad she was performing in the area. Sisters Jackie and Joyce Favel, whose niece, Northern Winz General Manager Bobbi Jo Favel gave them tickets to the show, were celebrating before and after Tillis performed. “We’re big fans,” Joyce Favel said. “(Bobbi Jo) told us this is the chance of a lifetime,” Jackie Favel added. Deanna Standing Rock said she is glad the concert happened, helping to promote the reservation’s business. “I’m happy that they come here and promote our casino,” Standing Rock said. “And I’m having fun,” she added. Tony Woods, marketing director for the casino, said this morning he estimates about 250 people braved the cold and snow to see Tillis’ performance. Ticket sales about broke even for the show, he said, but added that with gambling and sales of alcohol he believes the night was profitable overall. “We had a pretty good night. One of the best in a long time,” he said. The warmup band played in a dance and pool hall off of the main floor where Tillis performed. Party Train from Missoula did the warmup performance and played again after Tillis finished her show, starting as she and her band members were signing autographs. The cover band, which bass player Jesse Hamilton said plays at Northern Winz on a regular basis, played a variety of songs for people listening and dancing before Tillis performed. The songs ranged from country standards by artists like Johnny Cash and the Oak Ridge Boys to songs by Van Morrison, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jimmy Buffet. Once Tillis took the stage, the audience pretty well filled the seating that had been set before the stage. She fired the audience up with her opening song, “Mi Vida Loca,” then received cheers and applause at the start of Her second selection, “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.” Tillis spoke to the crowd regularly during the show, asking at one point, “Are you all ready for a better new year? It’s been a wild one, hasn’t it?” She injected humor regularly into her comments. When introducing a song by her father, country music legend Mel Tillis, she asked, “Everybody’s heard of my dad right? Merle Haggard? “Just seeing if you were paying attention,” she said. Before she sang the song, “Coca Cola Cowboy,” she added that her father has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. “How about that,” she asked the audience. When introducing her song “The River and the Highway,” Tillis said the video was inspired by her Native American heritage, adding that she is part Cherokee on both sides of her family. She said she is extremely proud of her Indian heritage, a comment which roused cheers in the casino. “My Indian name is ‘Running Mascara,’” Tillis said. Tillis also performed a song off of her Christmas album, saying people probably still had some Christmas spirit and timed the ringing in of the New Year, leading the crowd in singing “Auld Lang Syne.” The trio performed a few more songs after midnight, closing with a rendition of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles.
Ringing in the New Year
Tillis celebrates the holiday at Northern Winz concert
Published: Monday, January 4th, 2010
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