Country music star Martina McBride likes to treat her fans right, and she showed how it's done Tuesday night in Santa Rosa.
She hit the stage running, right on time, to sing the number-one hits the folks came to hear, "Wild Angels," "I Love You," "Blessed" and more.
Some 2,700 of McBride's fans came to the Chris Beck arena at the Sonoma County Fair for a hit-laden concert that ran an hour and 45 minutes.
The singer made time to talk to the crowd, chatting briefly from the stage with a seven-year-old girl in one of the front rows.
"Martina McBride is down to earth. She's a celebrity but she doesn't act like she's better than the rest of us," said Karen Stewart, 58, of Santa Rosa, who had come to see the singer live for the first time.
"Country music just seems go with rodeos and fairs, even though you could see the country stars at a coliseum," Stewart said.
McBride, backed by a seven-piece band, paced her playlist carefully, pulling favorites from old albums and showcasing "What You Gonna Do?" from her newest album, "Eleven."
She even led the crowd of 2,700 in a singalong medley of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" and Rod Stewart's "First Cut Is the Deepest."
The Kansas-born McBride, 46, has sold more than 18 million albums and won three Academy of Country Music's "Top Female Vocalist" awards along the way.
McBride's songbook is contemporary and sophisticated, but it's still pure country. Her songs tell stories about wayward husbands, defiant wives and families braving disaster together.
"Whether her song tells a story about her or about somebody else, she makes it real," said one of her fans in the crowd, Jane Hall, 59, of Santa Rosa.
McBride's wry song "Teenage Daughters" — McBride has three daughters two of them in their teens — includes the heartfelt line "I need a drink!"
One of her most moving songs is "I'm Gonna Love Through It," about patients facing cancer with the support of their friends and family.
Robbie Cream, 24, of Santa Rosa, a big man in a black cowboy hat, wore a pink shirt with a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon symbol embroidered on it — "for my best friend's mom."
McBride closed the show with a fan favorite, "Independence Day." When the crowd called her back to the stage, she rocked through two encores, Delbert McClinton's "Two More Bottles of Wine" and Rod Stewart's "Stay With Me."
She kept the fans on her side all evening, and when she shouted out "How Are Y'all Doin'?" — prompting cheers — it sounded like she really wanted to know.
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