Sign up for newsletter
 

Shelton brings the grit

PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA., February 23, 2019

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Other recent concert reviews
Blake Shelton's stop marked the midpoint of his "Friends and Heroes" tour. He runs in good company. John Anderson, The Bellamy Brothers and Trace Adkins each played mini sets within the show. Lauren Alaina has proven herself to be a tier one opener, lending her services to the likes of Keith Urban and Martina McBride while garnering an ACM award for new female vocalist of the year in 2018. She came out hand in hand with an adorable five-year-old who insisted she knew all the words to "Ladies in The 90s." Alaina tested her mettle with a three-minute duet where the little one took the mic three times and capably sang mini lead.

Shelton emerged with a full throttle "Neon Light," an arena rocker that still has plenty of twang to set the tone to come for the next three hours.

He prefaced "Doin' What She Likes" by appealing to the men in the audience. "I know a lot of you fellas don't really want to be here. It's because she made you. I get it, but heed the words to this song." The band downshifted into the mellow number and displayed an ability to transfer from high volume rockers to ballads seamlessly.

And there were plenty to choose from. The clear highlight was the soaring duet on "Lonely Tonight" with a stellar performance from Alaina, Later on, there was the tropical brush of "Sangria" the sultry "Drink On It" and his signature "Austin."

John Anderson began his set to the delight of the crowd's older demographic with his signature weathered voice and guitar work, blazing through "Seminole Wind, "Money In The Bank" and "Swingin.'"

The Bellamy Brothers started the home stretch with their tight harmonies on the1976 folksy crossover hit "Let your Love Flow."

Shelton was content staying out of the spotlight until Adkins rose from the floor to perform the 29th song of the evening, "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk." It was the only time Shelton joined any of his heroes onstage. The ever-charming Oklahoman was full of playful banter all night, weighing in on the quality of the fans' signs; eventually bringing a couple onstage whose banner read" She Won't Marry Me Until She Meets U."

Shelton quipped to the astonished fans, "What, you're surprised I brought you up here? I'd look like an A-hole if I didn't. You can't put that kind of pressure on a guy." While Shelton's 13 number 1 hits on the Hot Country chart have plenty of crossover appeal and his affability on The Voice has made him a favorite in pop culture, there is still plenty of raw grit and authenticity in his lyrics and performing style that render his decades older tour mates more like peers than out of reach heroes.