MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Country singer and songwriter Toby Keith brought his red Solo cup and guitar to Marine Corps Base Hawaii to play a concert for service members and their families at Dewey Square, May 5.
After Keith’s father, who served in the Army, passed away 11 years ago, the fourtime American Music Award winner was inspired to travel the world and perform for the military. Sunday’s performance on MCB Hawaii made it his 200th military concert.
“Once we started touring with United Service Organization, we hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since,” Keith said. “It’s wonderful to spend our 200th show here on the mighty Marine Corps base.”
Marines, sailors, friends and family brought country spirit to Dewey Square. Fans claimed their positions in front of the stage three hours before the show started. Their hopes to have a clear view were dashed when thousands of fans filled every inch of the open area. Keith started the show with “Made in America.” The lyrics of the song refer to a Marine with the Marine Corps motto “Semper Fidelis” tattooed on his left arm.
This song set the tone for the rest of the show. Not only were people excited to see Keith, but he played a song that touched every Marine.
“Early on, I didn’t realize that Marines don’t care about songs that talk about soldiers,” Keith said. “Since I spent so much time with Marines over the years, I produced ‘Made in America’ and it has gotten very popular with the military.”
The sea of red cups started to wave in the air when Keith began to play his famous summer song, “Red Solo Cup.” The crowd sang along to every song, word for word.
Keith also played songs that never made it onto an album. These songs were made during his time on the road or out with service members on forward operating bases. The songs were about Willie Nelson, recruiters and salty colonels.
“I had so much fun listening to Toby Keith,” said Blayne Sisson, 7, whose father is a section chief for 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, and a native of Mount Carmel, Ill. “Toby is the man! It was the best country music I have ever heard.”
After playing for nearly an hour, Keith handed off his guitar and walked off stage. The crowd knew the show wasn’t over. To their surprise, a bugler from the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band walked on stage to play evening colors.
After the American flag was brought down, the crowd started to chant “Toby, Toby, Toby.”
Soon, he answered the call and reappeared on the huge USO stage to perform one last song.
“American Soldier” was the last song played for everyone. Realizing who his audience was, Keith changed the words to “American Warrior.” Nearly every hand was raised in the air in celebration of a great show.
“We get thank you’s all the time, but what people don’t know is how much it means for us to be able to play for all of you,” Keith said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 25 Marines or 5,000 Marines, we appreciate every chance to perform for the military.”