I have a deep appreciation for country music, for which I have Brad Paisley to thank. I have always liked country music but it wasn't my favorite genre, until I first heard his music back in 1999. His singing & guitar playing appealed to me, but I loved his sense of humor and how he incorporated it into his songs. It's definitely a yearly (or more) visit to see him when he brings his tour nearby; and that he did Saturday night May 18th when the Beat This Summer Tour came to Hartford, CT.
The family trio (father, daughter and son) The Henningsens opened the show. They started at 6:45pm sharp to a nearly empty amphitheatre. They played a 5 song set concluding with their Top 20 single "American Beautiful". Lead Clara definitely has the makings of a front woman a la Kimberly Perry. By the time their set ended, the pit was almost full and everyone was dancing along to their music.
Next up was Lee Brice, who won points with me by playing The Cadillac Three as his crew was setting up. He started off with his new single "Parking Lot Party" and continued with five more of his hits including "Woman Like You" and "I Drive Your Truck". He ended with a brand new song that he said would be on his new album due next year. It was an up tempo number which might have been called "Drinking Class"; the crowd really liked it. My only critique was he did not play to the sides of the stage often enough, staying mostly in the center. Yet, having seen him multiple times now on various tours, I can say I like him more every time I see him .
After what seemed like only a few minutes, Chris Young came out to throngs of women screaming "I love you". He moved around a lot on stage, which to me is commendable. So many times one's view of the stage can be blocked, but when the performer makes a point to come over to your side you not only can have a clear view, but there is the potential for one on one interaction. Chris Young definitely knows how to play to a crowd and does it really well. He thanked the crowd for his numerous number ones. He confessed he was shocked that a song which was track #9 on an album (The Man I Wanna Be) would be a single, much less a hit. He had hoped it would not be because it had a high part he was worried about reaching. He need not worry though because he did a great job. He did mess up the lyrics a bit on "I Can Take It From There" but, he took it in stride with humor (which was endearing) and had us all cheer & yell for Conway Twitty when he re-sang the part. His slower numbers had the couples in the crowd hugging, dancing and lip locking. On stage he had 4 towers which lit up for various songs with lights and words including "Beer". He ended with "Save Water Drink Beer" and left the crowd really pumped for Brad.
"I believe country music is best played outside" said Brad Paisley on Saturday night and the entire crowd could not agree more. Everyone was up on their feet the minute they saw him take the stage. He started out with "Southern Comfort Zone", a black mesh screen behind him providing really cool graphics to accompany the song. Then he chatted with the crowd saying "we'll play some songs you wanna hear...and others you don't". He gave away a signed guitar to a child in the audience, multiple picks and even took a fan's cell phone & took photos with it. He ran around that stage & all ends of the catwalk and made sure every part of that audience got his attention at some point during the show. He even went out in the middle of the amphitheatre to play for the "cheap seats". I have seen him on tour quite a bit, but there was something about his energy and attitude that night. It might have been the best show I have seen by him.
He did a medley of "Then" and "She's Everything" and brought Chris Young and Lee Brice out for "Outstanding in Our Field". He had many of the audience tearing up during the video montage shown during "This is Country Music" especially with a photo of George Jones. It was one of the most special moments at a show in recent memory. Brad's show are always full of humor, whether it be him making jokes, what you see on the video screens or the lyrics themselves. Tonight was no different, the most LOL moment was during "Celebrity" when he added some "goating". I hope this is out there on You Tube at some point, because it was hilarious. He also spoke about how comfortable the weather was--although a bit nippy....and whether nippy actually meant, you know...."nippy". He told us to remember this night in August when it is 102 and we are sweating it out at a different show. Other songs he played included "Mona Lisa", "Karate", "Water" and "Mud On The Tires". The night ended with everyone singing along to "Alcohol".
If you get a chance I highly recommend going to see this tour. And as a bonus, you can purchase an autographed copy of his latest album "Wheelhouse" for $20. For more information and dates go to www.bradpaisley.com
Hayes Carll (r) with Warren Hood (l)
A few years back, I was able to see Hayes Carll open for Dierks Bentley in NYC and remember thinking he was really good. I bought his music and followed his doings, but had not had the opportunity to see him live again until this past Friday night when he played City Winery NYC.
His opening act was Warren Hood & The Goods. I don't even know how to describe them: bluesy? jazzy? bluegrassy? alt-country? with a hint of 1940s nostalga? Definitely a mix of all of the above. However you label it, it not only works, but works well. The crowd, mostly on the other side of 50, loved him and the music. I had not a clue about the band, so of course I had to do a little researching.
Turns out, Warren Hood is a multi instrumentalist who graduated from the Berklee School of Music, where he won the String Achievement Award, the schools highest honor selected by the faculty. The award is for those who are going to "make a mark on the future of music". And if his live show and music are any indication, he certainly will. His fiddle playing left me speechless. His keyboardist Emily Gamble, who was battling a cold, has a powerhouse voice that reminded me of both Norah Jones and Aretha Franklin. Please check them out, your ears will be glad you did.
Warren Hood & The Goods doubled as Hayes' back up band that night. Warren mentioned he did not know Hayes' music until about a month ago and has grown to like it, especially since he had to learn it all for the tour. This little bit of humor set us up for what would be about 1.5hours of a great show with lots of anecdotes thrown in. Hayes told of how he moved to a place called Crystal Beach on the Texas
Peninsula (where apparently a lot of people move to hide out from the law or IRS) to work on his music. He told stories of a lion there that liked his music, a Redneck Life of Pi, dancing with Norah Jones and how working for the Census Bureau helped him earn money to travel to...Croatia(!?) and an incident with a local handball team. He's a laid back performer, which perfectly suited the venue, who has a keen sense of humor and lyrics that you really need to listen to....."Another Like You" wasn't American Songwriter's Song of the Year in 2011 for nothin'. His voice is raspy yet serene. Everything he sings seems genuinely heartfelt from the upbeat, quirky numbers to the ballads, such as the terrific "Chances Are". During his set, Hayes also played tribute to the late George Jones with "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes".
The entire setlist was fantastic, but highlights for me included the encore, a song off of his latest cd KMAG YoYo (& other American Stories) "Stomp and Holler", "Another Like You" in which the incredible Emily Gamble dueted and "Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long". If you are a fan of the Texas music scene, you probably already know who Hayes Carll is. If you don't (and you are tired of the "country" on the radio today) he is definitely an artist you want to check out. For more information visit www.hayescarll.com
Alabama brought their 40th Anniversary Tour: Back to the Bowery to the NYCB Theatre at Westbury on Long Island on May 1st. The venue is set up as a round, so there really is not a bad seat to be had. That said, the stage does rotate so one is basically looking at the performer's back for quite a bit of their set. I have been to the venue before, however, the sound was occasionally muffled tonight, making it a bit hard to hear when one of band spoke. And unfortunately, there were quite a few empty seats, but those who were there had a terrific time. Alabama came on a little after 9pm and played a good hour and a half. Everyone was on their feet for numbers such as "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" "Dixieland Delight" and "Forty Hour Week". Some in the crowd had special license plates, signs and shirts they had made for the concert. Although Randy, Teddy, and Jeff are in their 60s, they kept the energy high. Randy waved his arm enthusiastically, danced a bit (to many ladies delight, who screamed out "we love you Randy" and even did the occasional leg kick. Other songs they performed included "Tennessee River", "I'm in A Hurry" and "Born Country". In honor of the late George Jones, they sang "She Thinks I Still Care". Finally, for the finale they had the entire theater up off their feet singing and dancing to "Mountain Music". These Country Music Hall of Fame members still know how to have a good time. For more information visit www.thealabamaband.com