Toby Keith performs in Saudi Arabia for a male-only crowd Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File
FILE - In this April 7, 2014, file photo shows Toby Keith performs at ACM Presents an All-Star Salute to the Troops in Las Vegas. Singer and songwriter Keith will perform a tribute to the late legend Merle Haggard during the American Country Countdown Awards on May 1, 2016. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

While he isn’t traveling with President Trump, Toby Keith’s performance in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20 coincided with Trump’s visit to the country.

Toby was set to perform at a men-only event, according to The Washington Post, which cited local advertisements for the concert billing it as a night of “Arabian lute and American guitar.” Toby was set to share the bill with popular Saudi singer Rabeh Sager.

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A representative for the Saudi Foreign Ministry told the Post that the concert was organized by the country’s General Authority for Entertainment to mark the end of exams for students. Trump, meanwhile, is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of his first overseas trip since taking office in January. He is also scheduled to visit four other countries during a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe.

Toby, who played at Trump’s January inauguration festivities, has performed for presidents of both parties and is reportedly a registered independent. During a keynote speech at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville earlier this year, he struck a defiant tone while explaining his decision to perform at the inauguration, a decision that garnered some criticism on social media.

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“If you succumb to that pressure, it just divides us,” Toby said, explaining that every time he has been asked to serve by the administration of either political party he has said “yes.” He compared such appearances to the 240 USO shows he has performed for U.S. troops overseas over the last 11 years, saying both are a duty he’s happy to fulfill.

“The memories, the geography lessons, the history lessons, the friends I’ve made [on USO shows are] the reason you can look them in the eye and say, ‘I don’t have to apologize for playing the inauguration,’” he said.

Phyllis Stark is a Nashville-based entertainment journalist who has been reporting extensively on country music (and loving every moment of it) for more than two decades.
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