Simpson’s Quiet Thunder

Jessica Simpson tested her mettle at the Country Thunder festival in Twin Lakes, Wis., July 19 and was soundly booed – or not booed at all depending on the source.

Simpson is shifting from a pop to country music career, with her debut country album due in September. She mentioned all of that during her Country Thunder set, slotted between Kellie Pickler and headliner Sara Evans. How she fared with the audience is a subject under contention.

The reporter for the Kenosha News said Simpson stood in front of "the toughest music critics around" and Simpson was greeted with a mixture of boos and cheers.

"She’s an embarrassment to country music," one fan told the paper. The report was parroted in several major newspapers.

But, as her boyfriend Tony Romo often hears, let’s look at the tape. A few days after the event, a concertgoer posted video clips from the set. One shows Simpson telling the audience she planned to do two more songs but would do only one instead. Members of the crowd urge her to do her full setlist and she complies.

Two others show Simpson talking between songs, once getting emotional – and swearing – as she told the crowd how excited she was to be on the stage that night.

But no booing can be heard. Then again, the cheers are sporadic.

What exactly was the mood of the audience that night? According to posts on various blogs and YouTube, the crowd was mixed. One comment said the audience was being polite but didn’t really enjoy the set.

"It appears that the majority of fans share the same views as I do," a reader commented on the Kenosha News Web site. "Y-a-a-a-a-w-w-w-n."

Joe Simpson, father and manager to Jessica, told the Tennessean that his daughter was already booked for a 2009 Country Thunder return. This was the first time she had been onstage in three years, he added, and noted she got a standing ovation. Simpson’s performance also reportedly spurred offers from seven festivals.

The Kenosha News article generated enough controversy for the Tennessean to interview the paper’s managing editor, who stressed it ran a news story, not a concert review.

"[The reporter] covered the event and asked people in the audience what their opinion was of the concert and reported what they said," he said. "I don’t know how many people she asked. That doesn’t mean that the responses she got weren’t kind of the general feeling of the people she talked to as a whole, while not using every individual involved."