Brad Paisley makes a big splash in Massachusetts

A review of Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton at the Comcast Center on July 16, 2011

, Contributing Writer

With a slip-n-slide and a slew of friends in tow, Brad Paisley, the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, brought his “H20 II” tour to the Comcast Center on Saturday night. Paisley’s generous use of the stage and amphitheater space, as well as his projection of music videos and genuine interaction with the audience proved him a worthy recipient of the honor.

The show, which also served as the annual WKLB Country 102.5 Country Music Festival, not only provided a showcase for Paisley and his openers Blake Shelton and Jerrod Neimann, but up-and-coming acts Thompson Square, Edens Edge, the JaneDear Girls, and Sunny Sweeney, who performed on the Waterworld side stage, as well. The day long show came equipped with dunk tanks, slip-n-slides, and water balloon tosses to keep the audience cool and entertained before the main show, which lived up to the hype for local country music fans.

Entering through the audience, Paisley opened the show with “Mud on the Tires” and quickly followed with a pair of fan favorites in “Welcome to the Future” and “Ticks”. What followed was a hit parade that had the crowd joyously sing-along and dancing all night. Touring in support of his latest release, This Is Country Music, he also took time to promote the new album with a sampling of new songs included in the 100-minute set (though his duet with Carrie Underwood “Remind Me” was unfortunately absent). The show moved along swiftly, as Paisley played only a handful of ballads, with a shortened version of his sentimental “When I Get Where I’m Going”, which finished with a September 11th tribute, showcasing the best of his slower songs.

Paisley’s love for Boston was clear throughout the show. At one point, he declared that beantown is always a top two or three show for him before declaring that if they kept it up, it would soon be number one. His own mascot, who first appeared during “Celebrity”, even successfully ignited a “Norm” cheer from the audience after Paisley delivered a bit of the Cheers theme song. The West Virginia native changed lyrics to fit the crowd on multiple occasions, referencing Boston, the Red Sox and locally brewed Sam Adams in any song that seemed fitting.

When Paisley accepted the Entertainer of the Year award in November, he declared country music fans are the best because they are loyal to all country artists. As the show went on, Paisley not only proved his loyalty to his fans but those other artists as well. “This is Country Music” was complemented by a video montage of country legends and contemporary stars. Later in the night, he welcomed Shelton on stage for their amusing duet “Don’t Drink the Water”.

Of course, Paisley is known for his sense of humor, which comes through in many of his videos. He premiered a new retro, tongue-in-cheek music video during “Working on a Tan” and for his 2003 hit “Celebrity” used a new Charlie Sheen inspired video complete with a Jimmy Kimmel cameo. “Waiting on a Woman” featured the original video starring Andy Griffith,  which Paisley finished off on a park bench near the top of the stage. “Online”, disappointingly did not come with the hilarious video starring Jason Alexander.

As funny as Paisley can be, one thing he is serious about is his exceptional guitar playing. Paisley constantly displayed his guitar chops throughout the night. During “She’s Everything”, he launched into a lengthy guitar solo during the bridge, even using an audience member’s iPhone to film the display at one point. After “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)”, he and his superb band rocked through an instrumental jam session that was accompanied by a wild west cartoon video called “The Good, the Brad and the Ugly”. As Paisley saved his fellow country artists including Reba, Kenny Chesney and Sugarland on screen, he played an extended version of “Folsom Prison Blues”.

The highlight of the show, especially for those in the upper sets and lawn, began when Paisley setup at B-stage near the soundboard. During “Camouflage”, he moved out to the “cheap seats” for the brief acoustic set. There he talked candidly about high school, including failing Algebra II, with the audience before singing “Letter to Me” with codas of “Little Moments” and “Anything Like Me” thrown in for good measure.

He closed out the show with “American Saturday Night”, “Then” and the fitting “Water”, airing former concert footage behind him. After telling the crowd they were a fantastic audience, he jumped off a platform into a fake screen of water. Paisley didn’t make the audience wait long for the encore, as he quickly started to play “Old Alabama”, which was complemented by its music video featuring the legendary band. He closed the show with “Alcohol”, complete with a video with a few embarrassing Shelton photos. Paisley brought all the artists who played earlier on stage to enjoy a drink and sing-along with the audience, giving a fun ending to a fulfilling and entertaining show.

It’s been quite a year for Shelton who has seen his star rise since serving as a coach on NBC’s “The Voice” and marriage to longtime girlfriend and fellow country star Miranda Lambert. Just a few days since the release of his new album Red River Blue, which is expected to hit #1 on the Billboard 200, Shelton celebrated in Mansfield. In his lovable frat guy persona, he declared at the beginning of the set, “I might as well tell you, I’ve been drinking”. The party kicked off with festive sing-alongs of “All About Tonight” and “Some Beach”. It then took an odd turn as Shelton bantered about his childhood and how his self-described “weird” personality was a result of his family’s musical taste. With that, he delivered a medley of their favorites: Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”, The J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” and Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative”. He cited the latter was the reason he got into country music, declaring, “I wanted to do the opposite of that crap”. That attitude led right into “Kiss My Country Ass”, which got Shelton and the audience riled up.

Shelton slowed things down with a pair of ballads in “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” and “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” before reaching back to deliver his first #1 “Austin”. Shelton’s latest single “Honey Bee” was a crowd favorite, even resulting in one couple’s engagement. After the song, he told the crowd that despite being in New England, the marriage proposal was “hillbilly” and he loved it. Of course it was the perfect transition to “Hillbilly Bone” before “Ol’ Red” brought the set to a strong close. Overall, Shelton’s set proved he’s worthy of his new superstar status and his own headlining tour cannot be far away.

Jerrod Niemann started off his set with a pair of party songs in “How Could I Be So Thirsty” and “One More Drinkin Song”. He appreciatively recalled songwriting for Garth Brooks before performing the Chris LeDoux tribute “Good Ride Cowboy”. New single ‘What Do You Want” was a midset highlight, as was his band’s display of “Texan Blues” on Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy”, which featured an epic guitar solo from lead guitarist Tim Teague that climaxed with him playing behind his head. Niemann’s 30-minute set came to a close with his smash hit “Lover, Lover”, which sparked a huge sing-along from the crowd.

The afternoon side stage music and water festivities around it were a nice appetizer to the rousing show that followed on the main stage.  Of the four new artists who performed on the side stage, Thompson Square, known for their song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”, were the clear standouts. The husband and wife duo of Kiefer and Shawna Thompson clearly have a true chemistry and brought lots of energy to the stage for an entertaining set. Hannah Blaylock, lead vocalist of Edens Edge boasted a killer set of pipes but the band’s songs were not remarkable enough for her instrument. Both The JaneDear Girls and Sunny Sweeney delivered enough attitude and country twang with their promising sets to prove they are worth watching in the future.


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