With age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes many a costume change for the legendary Reba McEntire.
Six costume changes, to be exact.
“It’s a big victory that we are doing things that we haven’t been able to do in a while,” McEntire says, just days before her concert return to the Chicago area, with opening act Reyna Roberts. “When I went back to doing concerts, I just wanted to stay out there with the audience, but I know the audience loves the theatrical aspect of it. So now we are back to doing a bunch of clothing changes throughout the show.”
And her ultra-loyal audiences are eating it up.
REBA: LIVE IN CONCERT
When: 8 p.m. March 19
Where: Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim Rd., Rosemont
“They’re just amazing,” the 66-year-old says of her congregation of followers that has shown up and turned out for her Reba: Live in Concert tour. “[These audiences are] just bigger and better than I ever could have dreamed.”
It’s a big statement for a female powerhouse who has seen it all over a career that has spanned more than 40 years and has generated 35 career No. 1 singles and more than 56 million albums sold worldwide.
“Everybody wants to be loved and accepted,” says the Country Music Hall of Fame member. “Every mama wants to feel needed, but to put on a concert and get that kind of reception after doing it as long as I have is just incredible. I mean, I signed with Polygram Mercury [records] in October of 1975.”
McEntire says she is sure most of the audience wasn’t even alive in 1975.
“There’s kids in the audience that look to be 11 or 12 years old,” chuckles McEntire. “I have to say thanks to their mothers and their grandmothers for letting them listen to my music. [Laughs] There is one part of the show where I ask, ‘for how many of y’all is this your first Reba concert?’ and it sounds like it’s 90% of the crowd. I’m ecstatic that they’re coming out to see me.”
This humble attitude is just one of the many qualities that fuels the love affair her legions of fans have with the red-haired Oklahoman.
“I was in a basketball camp in Lindsay, Oklahoma, back in high school, and there was a little poem in our locker rooms that said, ‘Little eyes are watching,’” recalls McEntire. “In a way, that message carried over into what I do and what I sing.”
Within a kaleidoscope of songs such as “I’m a Survivor,” “Fancy” and “Little Rock,” McEntire has come to discover that most of her tunes have ended up having a multitude of meanings.
“‘Consider Me Gone’ is one of those songs,” explains McEntire of her 2010 chart-topper. “That song was meant to be sassy. But now, I feel like I deliver a more mature version of it, and now, it’s become a song of strength.”
It’s this strength that McEntire herself even feeds off of these days.
“Music is very healing,” says McEntire, who finalized her divorce from Narvel Blackstock in 2015, after 26 years of marriage. “It takes you back. It’s kind of like when you smell the scent of a perfume. If I smell a certain perfume that my third-grade teacher wore, I go right back to that classroom. It just wraps a big old blanket around you.”
“Big old blankets” and the love of current boyfriend Rex Linn are keeping McEntire quite content, it seems.
“Rex is loving being out on the road with us,” she says of the “Young Sheldon” actor, whom she started dating in 2020. “Rex is our ambassador. He goes to the opening acts’ dressing room and talks to them and gets to know them and their band. Then, he goes over to visit with my band and pumps them up while I’m getting ready.”
She laughs, and then grows quiet.
“I’m happier than I’ve been in so long, and I thank God every day for that blessing,” says McEntire, who will release a new CD and DVD filled with hymns titled “My Chains Are Gone,” on March 25.
“To have this joy and fun and appreciation and thankfulness, it’s just overpowering. It’s more, sometimes, than I can comprehend. So, I always pray, ‘Holy Spirit, walk for me, talk for me, speak for me, sing for me. And if there’s anybody in the audience that needs you, let me be the conduit.’ I take that job very seriously.”