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Bradd Paisley: the musc makes the man

House of Blues, Anaheim, Cal., Dec. 10, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

ANAHEIM, CA - As an encore, Brad Paisley sang about the benefits of dressing up with ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man." But when you have large biceps underneath your tight T-shirt, big puppy dog eyes and sensitive heartfelt songs, it's clearly not the clothes that make this kind of a man.

Ballads like "He Didn't Have To Be" and "We Danced" can be credited for creating Paisley's large radio audience, but it's his more upbeat numbers, like "Me Neither" and "Two Feet of Topsoil," which allow Brad and his six-piece band to let loose and work it out a bit in concert.

Paisley obviously loves to play his electric guitar and showed off his fleet fingers many times this night. He even turned the outro of "He Didn't Have to Be" into an extended guitar mood piece, the way Prince once did with "Purple Rain." It appears as if Brad and the artist formerly known by a symbol have more than just a love for paisley patterns in common.

As he as for a while now, Paisley played instrumental versions of "O Beautiful For Spacious Skies" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" on just his acoustic guitar. What made these performances special this time, however, was the spontaneous singing of the largely female audience. It had all the piety of a church service, and made for the perfect intro to Paisley's singing of "How Great Thou Art."

Paisley is also a funny guy, as the constant ribbing of his height-challenged fiddler demonstrated. Jokes directed at the stone-faced musician emitted sighs of pity from the audience - especially when Justin Williamson was referred to a Harry Potter look-alike that can't ever get a date.

You almost can't blame the shy Paisley for deflecting away some of the overwhelming attention he's given in concert. But the humility he displays is sincere, and you never get the feeling he's trying to shout "Hey, look at me!" in between the lines of his songs, the way some performers do.

Much like Clint Black (who also retains a quietly charismatic presence) Paisley doesn't have to sell his songs with exaggerated physicality. The quality of the music alone, sells itself.

The stage is no catwalk for this singer/songwriter, because in concert, Paisley draped himself in sharply played music and left the fancy pants in his closet at home.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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