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Bentley hasn't forgotten how to host a lively party

FivePoint Amphitheatre, Irvine, Cal., August 20, 2021

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Dierks Bentley opened this late summer night concert with his single, "Gone," which ends with him repeating, "I've been gone." And he has been gone, as have most performers due to the COVID pandemic. Bentley even looked like a previously quarantined-at-home-man with his scraggly long hair and scruffy beard. However, he hasn't forgotten how to host a lively party, like this date on his "Beers on Me Tour." He wasn't the only one that knew how to have fun this night.

Without a proper new album to support, his set was essentially a greatest hits collection. And, oh boy, Bentley has amassed plenty of memorable hits over the years! These selections ranged from the silly, "Somewhere On A Beach" to the dead serious "Riser" and "I Hold On."

It seems like one song stands out above the rest each time Bentley comes through town, and tonight that winner was "Burning Man." Initially recorded with Brothers Osborne, this song about the yin and yang of spirituality hit with believable blunt force tonight.

A set of hits meant the audience knew the words to each and every song and sang along loudly. At one point, Bentley stopped to take it all in, remarking how he will never take all this adulation for granted

Bentley is always gracious to bring his opening acts back onstage to sing with him, and tonight was no exception. Parker McCollum returned to perform the Merle Haggard-esque "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do," while Riley Green joined Bentley acoustically in tribute to the late Joe Diffie on "John Deere Green." This night of familiar songs added up to a joyful post-lockdown singalong.

It may not be long before Green will be headlining amphitheaters like this one, but – no pun intended – the singer/songwriter still seemed a little green in front of the evening's sold-out crowd. He has the songs, including the new single "If It Wasn't For Trucks" and the tearjerker "I Wish Grandpas Never Died," but even after an audience member threw a huge bra at his feet, he still wasn't able to create the party atmosphere Bentley later easily, and seemingly nonchalantly, brought to the stage. He sure didn't seem like the big star he's most certainly becoming.

Not surprisingly, McCollum mentioned Tom T. Hall's earlier in the day during his set, setting the scene for this mostly real country/little pop-country night of music. He, too, has great songs, including the emotional "Pretty Heart." His "Hell of a Year" was written before the pandemic, but as he rightly put it, it also perfectly sums up the dreadful 2020.

Bentley showed us all that the best way to get past a hellish year, is to throw one hell of a party. Which is exactly what he did.



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