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THUNDERING FANS DROWN OUT LEDOUX’S RICH, VELVET VOICE

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Chris LeDoux's a multitalented guy.

He creates rare, but prize-winning sculptures in bronze. LeDoux captures the flavor of life as a cowboy in poetry that becomes songs.He once broke a record in bareback bronc-riding during his days on the rodeo circuit. (In those lean years, he peddled the albums his family produced from the back of his pickup truck after rodeos.)

Now he's a major player on the country-western scene, touring extensively with his band, the Western Underground.

The audience comes to hear "the voice" --a distinctive blend of denim and velvet. It's deep, rich and extremely popular with the well-seasoned country fan and the teenager who thinks he's just discovered a new sound. In live concert, his mix of pure western, tender ballad and country with a rock 'n' roll edge appeals to a vast spectrum of fans.

Friday night at the Huntsman Center was no exception. And therein lies a tale of both pleasure and frustration.

Chris LeDoux was at his best. I've heard him at smaller, more intimate venues, and believe me, his best is unbeatable.

Unfortunately, his youthful audience started squealing and screaming with excitement the minute he came on stage, and they never stopped. Unlike most shows, where the audience roars approval when a favorite singer begins a much-loved song, then settles down to listen, this group-- thousands strong-- never let up. Maybe he was understandable from other seats in the arena. From my excellent seats, however, he might as well have turned off the microphone most of the time.

Pardon me for sounding perturbed but Chris LeDoux has long been my favorite performer.

There were happier moments, like when he sang the mellow and evocative "Look at You Girl." His voice soared above a slightly subdued chaos, and it was like a rainbow in the midst of a thunderstorm. The sun came out again for "Riding for a Fall."

LeDoux has a natural sense of pacing, stringing together several fast numbers that spotlight the instrumental prowess of his band-- "Copenhagen," "Bareback Jack" and "Hooked on an 8-Second Ride" -- then moving into the mellow "Just Can't See It From the Road" to showcase his voice.

LeDoux's shows are flashier than in the old rodeo and fair days. He prowls the stage like a restless coyote, amid choreographed patterns of light and billowing smoke. At one point, he threw dozens of flowers into the audience. And "Even Cowboys Like a Little Rock and Roll" ended with a blast of fireworks.

LeDoux tells stories-- with his songs and in between them. The crowd Friday loved his reminiscence of playing the old Terrace ballroom in Salt Lake City. He said he owes Utah a lot and then sang a song he called "The Utah Tribute," which concluded with "I owe you more than you'll ever know."

The show opened with Western Flyer, a fledgling group that has its own record contract. They're a little heavy on the bass (ever had your chest vibrate?) and a little unseasoned. But their versions of "Sixteen Tons" showed great musical versatility as they moved from the standard to rap to banjo, into hard rock, then through a soul rendition.

We'll likely be seeing more of them.