Cyndi Thomson at Coyote's

By Rob Greenwell

Country music has always had a professional relationship with bars and honky-tonks in that bars and honky-tonks act as the "minor leagues," where an artist can hone his or her skills until they are ready for the big time. Over the last several years, however, artists have shied away from bars and honky-tonks, preferring to go straight for the labels, with many successful at getting signed to major deals, leaving the old bar and honky-tonk route to the top unused.

The club path of "paying the dues" over the years has helped many an artist hone the necessary stagecraft skills as well as learn to read and react to a crowd, which is key in helping an artist grow in the music business. It's the audience that is the artist's meal ticket, and playing to an audience is one of the ways to get lifelong fans.

Having said that, to then say that Cyndi Thomson is a little bit "wet" behind the ears vis-a-vis her live show is a bit of an understatement. She hasn't learned very many of the skills of performing that a seasoned veteran of the bar circuit has learned. During her show at Coyote's on December 20, it was evident that the packed house that she played to was the result of record label advertising and good songs, not of fans knowing that they are going to get entertained by a seasoned vet.

This is not to say the show was all bad. Thomson does have a great vocal presence on stage. She is not obviously "manufactured" or "processed," as was evident when she performed her two biggest hits to date, " What I Really Meant to Say" and "I Liked That Best". She also was blessed with a decent band (in Nashville terms) that kept her moving from song to song. It was apparent that they had more experience than her, though not that much more.

This whole live show seems to have been put together only a couple of months ago and the team seemed to be still "feeling each other out," trying to get that right chemistry. Thomson seemed very nervous on the stage, unsure of what to do next, which caused the show to be very choppy, without the flow of a regular show.

The major mistake was that she and her band (I placing equal blame here) covered a portion of one of the worst songs ever: "Ice Ice Baby." Yes, you read that right, the Vanilla Ice song. Most artists will cover Van Morrison, Richie Valens or Lynyrd Skynyrd; they even occasionally cover old country songs, but Thomson decided to try her luck with this song. Let's hope she learns fast.

In defense of Cyndi Thomson, she is going to be a star; heck, she's already got a great start. It will help her career that her record label is completely behind her. Let's hope they stay behind, at least until she gets her live show where it needs to be, and where it will eventually get be. She'll get her experience if she continues to play in bars and she opens for some major artists, as she did for Jo Dee Messina, who knows how to put on a show.

Should you go see a live Cyndi Thomson show? Yes, just don't expect too much "show" until after she gets dries off her ears.