on Pardi brought his "Ain't Always the Cowboy" tour to town along with two unbeatable openers, Hailey Whitters and Lainey Wilson. Pardi, one of mainstream country's best and most traditional performers, looked and sounded great. He writes songs that appeal to traditionalists and non-traditionalists alike and nearly equally. His large backing band featured a steel guitarist smack dab in the middle, behind him on a riser, so his heart and his sound were exactly in the right place. Not surprisingly, the sellout crowd appeared to love every minute of it.
While singing just fine, Pardi still appeared a little uncomfortable in his headliner shoes. He stumbled and stuttered sometimes when trying to add between song patter. However, when he performed dance floor bangers, like "Heartache Medication" or working-class anthems, such as "Dirt on My Boots," he was as good as mainstream country gets these days.
The evening's most exciting moment arrived when Midland's Mark Wystrach joined Pardi to sing on the collaboration for "Longneck Way to Go." Wystrach, dressed casually in a white t-shirt and a trucker cap, was nearly unrecognizable without his usually classy Midland garb. Nevertheless, his brief time on stage had many audience member cameras videoing the whole thing.
Pardi has so many memorable songs, which are enjoyable for differing reasons. The pun-y "Tequila Little Time" featured sweet accordion accompaniment, while the star-filled video screen accompanied ballad "Starlight" was both gentle and touching. Pardi and band even did a little dance during "Beer Can't Fix." Pardi will be much smoother once he gets the hang of being the main draw, but as long as he continues to put out so much fine music, such a minor distraction just won't matter much.
Wilson appeared before Pardi and provided the evening's emotional peak with a performance of her newest single, "Heart Like a Truck." This song's lyric, about perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances, was dedicated to Wilson's father, who she said isn't doing well. She also asked those that believe in the power of prayer to please pray for him. You could see in Wilson's face that she was struggling to keep her emotions in check while performing it. She also sang the hell out of it because she meant every single word of it tonight.
Wilson also sang of wonderfully extended version of Merle Haggard's "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink," and even found a way to make 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up?" funky and enjoyable. Of course, she closed with "Things a Man Oughta Know," her big hit signature song. Dressed in a colorful outfit, Wilson was a feast for the ears and the eyes.
The irrepressible Whitters opened the show with a short, but fully engaging appearance. She danced, twirled and skipped he way through a set that included "Plain Jane" and her single, "Everything She Ain't." backed by a band that included a fiddler/mandolinist, Whitters must have most certainly made new fans this night. It was impossible to not love her from the first note.
It's rare to catch such a fantastic triple bill country show, and one fully expects Wilson and Whitters to one day be concert headliners, just like Pardi. If this is the future of mainstream country music, well, we are all in really good hands. It was mainstream earache medication, indeed.