I’ve linked to them a couple of times, but one of the best pop sites out on the Web at the moment is Idolator, which did a pretty brilliant breakdown of country pop from the 90s and today, leading up to Taylor Swift’s recent #1 pop airplay hit “You Belong To Me”. Granted, she got enough of an airplay bump off of Kanyegate to nudge the track up from what looked to be a #2 peak, but it still counts.
With all of the country artists that are crossing over these days (Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and the Dixie Chicks, to name a few), it seems like you either take your country pop-ified, or you take it fully traditional (George Strait, Reba, Alan Jackson). That’s why a tour like Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley appeals to me. Here you have two guys that recognize where the music comes from and where it’s going, and they are able to honor both positions without seeming like a sellout or a fossil.
While Brad Paisley was the headliner, Dierks definitely has some pull with the country crowd, so they ended up with an opener for the opener by the name of Jimmy Wayne. I know Jimmy because of a song he recorded back in 2003 called “Stay Gone”, and around that time, I saw him in the parking lot of a Circuit City. Random, I know. Either way, I was glad to see that he’s getting a second chance at a career, because he had a long lull between hits, and that’s usually a kiss of death in the music business. Highlights of his set were “I Will” and his cover of “Sara Smile”, which he revealed he had finally gotten permission to record, and it will be the title of his next CD coming in November. It’s tough to do a lot with a half-hour set, but he definitely did his thing.
Up next was Dierks Bentley, who a lot of the ladies in the audience made a LOT of noise over. If you like your country artists tall, lanky and scruffy, he might fit the bill. His set was a good run-through of his big hits, and the crowd was with him from start to finish. The way he ran the stage reminded me of a Garth Brooks show from back in his heyday, but this set was about the music, and he definitely delivered. The one song I wanted to hear was “Settle for a Slowdown”, and I got it, but his acoustic take on “My Last Name” was pretty incredible. I think it’s only a matter of time until he’s headlining shows on his own based on the way he maximized 55 minutes of stage time.
Brad Paisley has had 24 singles off of 7 CDs, and only two have missed the Billboard Country Top 10 (reaching #12 and #18). Every one of those tracks has also charted on the Hot 100 as well, which is a pretty amazing feat, considering that Brad isn’t the most high-profile performer out there, and none of those songs got any pop airplay. So it’s a testament to him that he pulls in such a diverse fan base to his concerts. I credit a good chunk of it to songs that talk about real lives, not just the cliched topics of traditional country music. Online chatting, reality TV, fishing, love, heartbreak…okay, maybe the last three are more traditional, but you get the gist.
The pacing of the show was terrific, and he really did a great job of mixing up the vibe throughout, playing to the varied demographics in the audience. I was cracking up as Brad sang “Celebrity” while country artists like Dierks, Bill Anderson, and Taylor Swift (see, it all comes around) played Guitar Hero on the big screen behind him. For every all-out party anthem, there was a more restrained moment, like his recent #1 “Then”, and “Waitin’ on a Woman”, which got a couple of people around me a bit choked up with the Andy Griffith video playing out the lyrics. That’s where Brad’s strength is…he’s the guy at the barbeque who can move from group to group, instantly picking up on the conversation and contributing to it without being overbearing. It is a bit cliched, but he is the guy that guys want to be, and women want to be with. That’s an equation that just doesn’t get old.
Speaking of cliched, if I had one complaint about the show, it was the video montage that accompanied “When I Get Where I’m Going”. It’s great to pay tribute to those people that have passed on, and maybe it is more about my weariness with all of these celebrity deaths, but I really feel that “Going” is such a powerful song on its own, and means so much to so many, that it almost seems disrespectful to impose your own priorities of people who are missed on top of that moment. But having said that, the show as a whole was extremely enjoyable, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for another Brad Paisley show.