Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
he previous night had not been a good one for Brad Paisley. He may have been nominated for Grammys, but he came home empty handed.
That apparently didn't dampen either Paisley's musical abilities or his keen sense of humor an spirit during an 80-minute show.
First and foremost, Paisley made it exceedingly clear that he is a country music guy. Don't expect the West Virginian to go pop with loud guitars and eschewe fiddle and pedal steel.
Far from it as Paisley maintained a very high country quotient throughout. Paisley was his own lead guitarist, and that was not the same as being one's own doctor. The guy simply played and turned it on in song after song. That didn't mean he was all sizzle and no steak. He put a lot of power into the songs with his playing with a lot of twang, while not overdoing it either. That was particularly true on the opening "The World" where Paisley held court on his Telecaster, one of about five guitars he used during the night.
Paisley maintained a pretty fast pace in concert, with "Wrapped Around" and "Mud on the Tires" played early and to good effect.
If expecting a rote recitation of his songs exactly as they appear on CD, forget it. Paisley's voice was not quite as smooth live, and he also tweaked the songs.
Paisley kept it serious with his current big hit "When I Get Where I'm Going," though Dolly was nowhere to be seen and later with the mournful death ballad "Whiskey Lullaby" with Alison Krauss showing up on the backing screen signing in her usual great style.
But Paisley certainly knew a thing or two about humor. Some of that was contained in his songs, and some of resulted from staging. For example, during a long instrumental (he included them on each album), the backing screen had the words "how fast can we play?" The answer was very fast with the screen continuing with a Japanese style animation.
The humor continued on the screen while the playing smoked. "I play better when I hear applause" said the screen. Guess what the crowd did? "Come on now," said the screen, which resulted in louder applause. "Whoops. I missed a note."
Sara Evans was slated to be the middle act, but did not play because of illness.
But Paisley sort of included her during his change of pace acoustic solo set playing bits and pieces of Evans' songs. While not exactly stunning renditions, it at least showed that this was not a rehearsed by-the-numbers show.
If there were "complaints" to be lodged against Paisley, first and foremost is that at 80 minutes, the concert was too short. "Time Well Wasted" has many fine songs that he should have played. And hits from the debut, "Who Needs Pictures" and "We Danced" never made it to the concert either.
While effective, Paisley probably relied on the videos too much. He tended to use the videos to lighten the mood - which he did - but he ought to demonstrate enough confidence in his own live abilities to pull it off.
Despite the quibbles, Paisley was a breath of fresh air in the music world of today because he seems far more concerned with keeping it country with quality and making it fun.
That was apparent during the close to the regular set, the anthemic, sorta serious, sorta not smash "Alcohol." The song had all the ingredients - country, great playing on a Fender and fun.
Billy Currington opened with a 40-minute set that was in sharp contrast to Paisley. They're both good looking, but that was about where the similarities ended. Currington favored a soulful sound that had very little to do with country in reality.
And while doing covers of "Stand By Me" and "Keep Your Hands to Yourself," for some reason, he inexplicably left out his first hit, the touching "Walk a Little Straighter."
Despite that, career-wise like his recent number one hit, Currington "Must Be Doin' Somethin' Right."