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Travis Tritt brings his classic style to WE Fest

Travis Triitt sings a song during his WE Fest performance Saturday night. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newspapers
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - “Ten years has been way too long,” Travis Tritt said from the stage on Saturday, the final day of WE Fest.
Tritt was the heritage act for his third visit to the country music festival, a spot that in past years went to Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson.

At 51, Tritt still seems a little young for the slot. It hardly seems like it’s been 25 years since the singer/guitarist broke onto radio with “Country Club.”

While his trademark mullet has been tamed – but still well-trained – his voice was in vintage form.

From his opening song, “Put Some Drive in Your Country,” Tritt’s set served as a reminder that he was one of the big acts in bridging the gap between country and rock. When he covered classic rock tunes like The Eagles’ “Take it Easy” and Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” – which he performed solo and acoustic – they sounded as natural as if Tritt had written them. 

On a day when Thompson Square represented the pop leanings of Nashville and Brantley Gilbert (who started as this story was being written) showed the harder-rocking side of country, Tritt was the link to roadside rave-ups and barroom blues. When he played “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’” he delivered the honky-tonk back to WE Fest, and “Southbound Train” brought the boogie.

While some songs showed their age lyrically – Tritt quipped, “I tell my kids, ‘Here’s an iPhone, Call Someone Who Cares’ ” – they still rang true with fans of all ages. When he played “Country Club,” at least one woman started line dancing, a nice nod to the 1990s. Other tunes had couples two-stepping back in general admission.

Other songs sounded as good as ever. The barn-burner “T-RO-U-B-L-E” may also be 20-some years old, but it had the crowd jumping up and down and singing along.

On quieter songs like the ballads “Tell Me I was Dreaming” and “Anymore,” the singer showed off his still-impressive vocal range, depth and strength. He saved the real high notes for the finale, “Homesick,” where he let loose with such piercing notes you had to look twice to make sure whose voice it was.

The only thing that hurt Tritt’s set was the rain that started toward the end, around 7:15 p.m. and lasted about an hour.

The weather didn’t take the party out of the crowd, but authorities said the good times didn’t get too out of hand. Around 4:30 p.m., Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon said authorities had arrested 43 people over the weekend.

“That’s way down from past years,” Shannon said.