There’s a reason Brad Paisley was nominated for seven Country Music Association awardsthis year. Not only is he a master of pop culture references in his lyrics, but on stage, he’s on pitch, full of energy and connects with the crowd. Cruzan Amphitheatre was packed with teenagers and 20-40 somethings Oct. 17.
When I arrived at gate eight of the amphitheatre around 7:15 p.m., and realized the concert was happening simultaneously with the South Florida Fair’s Fright Nights, I knew parking was going to be more uncomfortable than Kanye West at a Taylor Swift tribute show. The concert started at 7:30 p.m. with Jimmy Wayne. I knew I’d miss Wayne’s performance due to the parking situation, but I didn’t realize I’d miss Dierks Bentley’s set too.
The parking was insane forcing people to have to walk around the entire fair to get to the amphitheatre. Then a fight broke out at the main entrance causing a further hold up with security. With lines of cowboy hat-wearing fans meandering all over the parking lot, some opted to continue tailgating until Paisley came on stage around 9 p.m. Despite the parking debacle, Paisley’s American Saturday Night Tour was definitely worth the wait. His tour merchandise was also reasonably priced--another strong indicator of how cued into real Americans' lives this entertainer is. Hats cost $20 and T-shirts were $30, which is $10-$15 cheaper than tour merchandise typically runs.
Paisley opened with “Start A Band” and proceeded to fire off his hits to the audience like a Mossberg shotgun. “Ticks,” “Online,” “Celebrity” and “Mud On The Tires” were obvious crowd favorites. He sang the first verse of “Country Boy Can Survive” and then went into his clever, anti-metrosexual anthem, “I’m Still A Guy.”
While he’s known for his tight, bluesy guitar licks, which he amply showed off on stage, Paisley also demonstrated his chops as a graphic artist with an animation short he created just for the show. In it, a cartoon, super hero Paisley saves Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney and the members of Sugarland from horrible fates. But to balance out the silliness, there were poignant, tear-jerking portions of Paisley’s performance as well such as "Waiting On A Woman." During “When I Get Where I’m Going,” the Grammy Award-winning singer flashed pictures of deceased American legends including Johnny and June Carter Cash, Ronald Reagan, Les Paul, Dale Earnhardt and Patrick Swayze.
Paisley closed with “Alcohol” and the patriotic and inspiring song “Welcome To The Future,” which he said is his favorite tune off the album. It contains moving lyrics such as “Hey, look around it's all so clear/Wherever we were going, well we're here/Hey, so many things I never thought I'd see/Happening right in front of me.” A twangy cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” was his encore. Just two days before, Paisley surprised a couple at his Jacksonville, Fla. show. The fans had purchased the one-millionth ticket to a Paisley concert in the last year. To reward them, the big-hearted entertainer gave them a new pickup truck proving when you’re a “Celebrity,” it really is adios reality.
— Joanie Cox