Just moments before Reba McEntire takes The Colosseum stage in Las Vegas with Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, she tells Brooks to “do it.” On cue, Brooks starts belting out Reba’s hit “Fancy” in a Cajun twang.
This happens before every show at Caesars Palace. It’s tradition at this point. “That’s a demand that I’ve learned to live with,” Brooks says. “Sometimes you just gotta do what she says.That’s what big sisters do. You’re afraid you might get in trouble. She won’t go onstage until I do it.”
“It’s hysterical,” Reba says with a laugh.
The trio, longtime friends, first began their “REBA, BROOKS & DUNN: Together in Vegas” residency in summer 2015, which adds up t o a lot of Cajun versions of “Fancy.” For the three of them, doing a show together came naturally, much like their relationship.
“It’s just like brothers and sisters,” Reba explains. “We argue and we fight. We spar about stuff, and we agree to disagree if we can’t come to an agreeable situation on a topic.”
They also mess with each other—like the time the guys tossed a stink bomb into an enclosure that she was in. “Lately, we haven’t screwed with each other,” Brooks claims. “We have such a history of doing horrible things to each other that you just got to be careful getting that stuff started because it really ends in a dangerous place.”
The country music legends have been performing for sold-out crowds at The Colosseum since kicking off their Caesars Palace residency in 2015. Photo courtesy of Caesars Entertainment.
On this particular day, Reba’s lodging a complaint against the guys, ribbing them that she does five costume changes throughout the show, while they, well, do zero.
“Ronnie and Kix don’t change nothing. That really puts me out a little bit,” she says. “I think they should at least change a necklace or hat or vest or jacket. Kix does walk back and forth a little bit, so I gotta give him credit for that.”
Dunn’s response, “Listen, I change my shirt every now and then.” Brooks, meanwhile, says, “Well, she’snot paying attention. I’m working really hard at doing subtle changes. If she were watching, she would know. I change a watch. Sometimes I’ll put a coat on. I might take a vest off. I’m a little disappointed. She really needs to watch. I know both those cowboy hats are black, but it wasn’t the same one. I’m concerned that she’s so wrapped up in her own stuff that she doesn’t know all the glamorous things that I’m doing over there.”
Clearly, these three mesh incredibly well on, and off, the stage. As they enter the fourth year of their Caesars
Palace residency, the only challenge they continue to face is keeping the show fresh for not only themselves, but also for repeat customers.
“The primary thing for us to remember is that people are there to hear the hits. They want to hear ‘Neon Moon’ and ‘My Maria.’ We have to be cognizant of the fact that they want to hear the hits,” Dunn
says. “That’s the good and bad news of being around long enough to be, what I call, a franchise act. It’s certainly not a negative thing to have a lot of hit songs.”
And that’s what the show is, a live greatest-hits album from three of the biggest names in country music.
“We toured for over twenty years to get to a scenario like this and never did we envision at any time having a residency in Vegas,” Dunn admits. “It’s turned out to be the coolest thing I feel like we’ve ever done.” In speaking about the show, Brooks says, “Everyone is in a great mood, having fun and we got a show that’s well put together. I feel like there’s a lot going on. It ’s as big a show as Ronnie and I have ever put on, and we’ve put on a lot of nonsense over the years. I feel really good about the fun factor of this thing.”
With all their banter, jokes and music, it’s easy to see why the three of them truly enjoy sharing the stage together. For Reba, she says the guys “add energy and personality, and a little quirkiness” to the show.
Despite that fact they all know each other so well (they even vacation together), Brooks says it’s still “surreal” to be sharing the stage with a living legend like Reba. “In one way, we’re used to it, but in another way I can’t think of anybody who I’d rather look over and see standing next to me onstage,” he says of Reba. “And you know that this is going to be big-time pro, because she doesn’t screw up.”
Although the residency world has become a crowded space, the three say they don’t really fret about competing with other headliners performing in Vegas.
“It’s competition, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” Reba says. “We do our thing; they do their thing. We totally understand that we might not get repeat fans coming back, but by golly we do. We have so many fans in the audience that we see in the hotel or out walking. We see them and they say they’re coming to see us again. I tell them that if It ell the same joke, you be sure to laugh.”
Dunn actually likes the endless competition. “Vegas has changed. That’s an understatement,” he says. “It’s changed to where it’s no longer kitschy acts. There’s major entertainment going on. I’m loving it.”
To many country fans, the fact that this show even happened is probably surprising, since a narrative existed for years that Brooks and Dunn weren’t all that friendly.
“I think we kind of egged that on just to create attention and keep that dynamic,” Dunn discloses. “We’ve always enjoyed one another’s company.”
When the show began in 2015, that same false narrative still existed, and Reba even played into it, telling reporters that she was going to be the “referee” between them. Upon reminding Dunn about that, he laughs.
“That’s funny. If there’s anything, we’re the governing force of her,” he says. “That dynamic doesn’t apply. We’re on top of her all the time . She’s the one who likes to change songs, and w e say you can’t do that. She needs the governor, and we love it. It keeps things stirred up.” Would you expect anything less from family?
“REBA, BROOKS & DUNN: Together in Vegas” is the longest running country music residency to play The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Purchase tickets in person at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace Box Office, by calling (866) 320-9763 or online at thecolosseum.com.