ierks Bentley may have temporarily filled some in the audience at his Irvine tour stop with a false sense of traditionalist hope when he opened with the title track to his bluegrass album, "Up on the Ridge" and even sang praises of the song's upfront banjo part.
No, Bentley would not be putting on an all-traditional country music concert this night. And though he interspersed throwaway songs, such as the hits "Somewhere on a Beach" and encore "Drunk on a Plane," there was still enough meat in this sandwich, so to speak, to create a filling meal.
Bentley's best songs can be quite serious and introspective. Tracking life's journey was explored with "Every Mile a Memory" and "Riser," which Bentley dedicated to first responder firemen on this 9/11 eve show, praises perseverance and dedication. Then with "I Hold On," Bentley sang about holding on tightly to sacred values. Bentley explained how his song "Freedom" was misconstrued as pandering to patriotism when he performed at a recent Broncos football game. He also expressed how thankful he is that country fans - like the ones gathered this night - understand the sincerity with which he sings its lyric.
But it wasn't all dead serious stuff. He also fills "5-1-5-0" with humorous, romantic insanity, and questions his own judgement during "What Was I Thinkin.'" Bentley is a fine singer and a hospitable host during his concerts. It's just too bad mainstream country audiences likely aren't ready for a start-to-finish traditional show from Bentley. But he could do it, and do it well, if only allowed.
Randy Houser preceded Bentley with a rousing set of powerful country-rockers, like "Boots On" and "All Fired Up," yet revealed his strong tender side via "Like a Cowboy." Cam made the best of her short stint with her hit "Burning House," among others, and Tucker Beathard got the party started with his intelligent, if slightly hard rocking, country songs, which included "Rock On" and the Southern culture saturated "Momma and Jesus."
Although this concert was only traditional country in sporadic places, when it was good, it was extremely good. Don't be fooled by Bentley's tipsy drunk on a plane character, which found him wearing a crumpled captain's uniform while he sang the song that inspires it; Bentley was in complete control tonight, with classy country cards he's not always showing.