Brad Paisley delights in Comcast Center opener

A review of Brad Paisley at the Comcast Center on May 17, 2013

, Editor-in-Chief

After admitting he was a bit early, Brad Paisley declared it the official opening of summer as the country music star kicked off the concert season at the Comcast Center in Mansfield on Friday. Over the course of nearly two hours, the veteran star packed a set of hits with a few newbies and impressive musicianship for an entertaining night.

Paisley is a unique figure in the world of country music. In a genre riddled with stereotypes, he’s not afraid to live up to each. A fierce ambassador for the the sound, he sums it up proudly in “This Is Country Music”. Yet in the same breath, he’s not afraid to buck the trend. Like Vince Gill, he’s a guitar slinger that lights up with impressive licks and solos, going as far as delivering instrumentals on albums and in concert. On his latest album, Wheelhouse, he openly sparked controversy with “Accidental Racist”, a track he collaborated with rapper LL Cool J on. Say what you want about the song, but he succeeded in getting people talking and ultimately proved that while most in Nashville would prefer to stick to the tried-and-true formula, Paisley will do what he wants. Though the much-discussed song was absent from Friday’s setlist, the concert showcased each of the aforementioned qualities.”Southern Comfort Zone” kicked off the show before Paisley spotted and displayed a fan’s “Boston Strong” shirt during “Mud on the Tires” to the delight of the crowd. Only a handful of Wheelhouse tracks made the set with “The Mona Lisa” appearing early, along with “Outstanding In Our Field”. On the latter, Paisley was assisted by openers Chris Young and Lee Brice who lead the crowd through the party anthem’s big chorus. Of course, there were plenty of hits for the crowd to join in for sing-alongs too, like “American Saturday Night” and “This Is Country Music”.

Joined by just his keyboard player, Paisley excelled with a bluesy take on “Then” and followed it up with another ballad in “She’s Everything” (complete with a marriage proposal in the crowd). After introducing the members of his stellar band, Paisley shouted “watch this” and gave his band ample time to showcase their chops through the instrumental “Time Warp” and a surprising countrified cover of Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”. Paisley worked the fretboard with ease but also gave his band some time on the spotlight for solos, including Berklee grad and Boston native Ben Sesar on drums.

The jam session flowed perfectly into crowd favorite “Old Alabama” before Paisley made his way to a b-stage by the soundboard in the middle of the shed. Telling the crowd he was looking forward to this show since the tragic Marathon Bombings, he declared “you are the strongest people”. The crowd roared with cheers at the conclusion of a shortened solo acoustic rendition of “When I Get Where I’m Going” as the stage displayed a Boston Strong tribute. Then with members of his band joining him on the small stage, Paisley led the group through “Celebrity” and “I’m Still A Guy”. The unplugged set gave each of the songs a new feel and was further proof that Paisley is always looking to re-invent his set.

Returning to the main stage, Paisley delivered his brand new single “Beat This Summer”. In an attempt for further crowd involvement, he asked fans who had downloaded a special app to pull out their phones. However, the gimmick to use some fans to light up the venue in varying colors via their phones came off as a poor-man’s attempt to match Coldplay’s innovative l.e.d. bracelets used during their arena tour last year. Another interesting stage show element came during “Remind Me”, during which Paisley was joined by his duet partner Carrie Underwood via a 3-D hologram. The technology was so spot-on that the crowd was fooled at the start as they cheered wildly for the country queen.

Closing the main set with “Water”, Paisley quickly returned for a two-song encore as he approached the venue’s curfew. After a solid take “Ticks”, Paisley brought the night to a close with crowd favorite “Alcohol”, complete with him using a bottle of beer as a slide for another solo.

1.  Southern Comfort Zone
2.  Mud on the Tires
3.  The Mona Lisa
4.  American Saturday Night
5.  Outstanding In Our Field
6.  This Is Country Music
7.  Celebrity
8.  Then
9.  She’s Everything
10. Time Warp / Hot for Teacher
11. Old Alabama
12. Waitin’ On a Woman
13. When I Get Where I’m Going
14. Online
15. I’m Still a Guy
16. Beat This Summer
17. I’m Gonna Miss Her
18. Karate
19. Remind Me
20. The World
21. Water
22. Ticks
23. Alcohol

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