By Gazette Staff –

CEDAR RAPIDS — Country music star Jo Dee Messina brought her high-energy show to Kirkwood Community College on Saturday for the annual Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival Country Concert.

Messina brought the crowd of about 3,000 to its feet with her signature “Heads Carolina, Tails California” and kept them there with “I’m Alright,” “That’s the Way” and “Downtime.”

Recalling the birth of her son, Jonah Christopher, in January, Messina told the audience the back story of “A Woman’s Rant,” a new song. Noting that she was more than physically ready for Jonah to be born, Messina also related that her husband, Chris Deffenbaugh, slept through every-two-hours feedings.

“A Woman’s Rant” includes the lyrics “I plan to have a little come-to-Jesus moment with Eve” when Messina goes through the Pearly Gates. Women in the audience stood, nodded and applauded throughout the song.

Saying she was ready to begin touring again, Messina related that her booking agent had proceeded to give her all the reasons why she should hold off returning to the circuit. That prompted Messina to write a sharp rebuke in the form of “I’m Not Dead Yet.”

Messina showed her softer side with “Bring On the Rain,” her 2001 hit with Tim McGraw. In short order, she ripped through “Stand Beside Me,” “Lesson in Leavin‘,” “Biker Chick” and a terrific cover of Aretha Franklin’s signature “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Messina kept the energy flowing with her 1997 hit “Bye Bye” and “My Give a Damn’s Busted.” After receiving a standing ovation, she briefly left the stage before returning to sing “Dare to Dream,”“It Gets Better” and “Burn,” a 2000 hit that she chose not to perform recently in a concert in Colorado Springs out of respect for those impacted by the wildfires.

Messina wrapped up the evening with a stirring performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” after reminding her audience of those who have given their lives to defend the cause of freedom. More