It’s not often that a small town in Kentucky hosts the first night of a tour. Yet, that’s exactly what happened last night in the beautiful mountain town of Pikeville, KY. Pikeville is a town that is fighting to survive by reinventing itself. The town’s economy, as well as the region’s, has long been dependent on the coal industry, which has been decimated in the last 10 years or so. Pikeville is vying to be much more and perhaps that’s a great indication of why this tour started there. Brad Paisley certainly is no stranger to a small town, he was born and raised in Glen Dale, WV. He knows how much of a struggle small town life can be. I myself am from the region around Pikeville and I knew just how much this show would mean to the people there. So, I made the three hour trip to the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center to catch this nearly sold-out show.
First up was Danielle Bradbery. I’m not much of a television connoisseur, but some of you may know her as the young winner of season 4 of the NBC hit show The Voice. Now 17 years old, yeah let that sink in for a moment, Danielle released her debut album around Thanksgiving last year and has been doing a great job of holding her own with some of the biggest names around. Danielle has the potential be a star for years to come. Her show was pretty good, but you can tell that she’s still learning her craft. Lord knows I didn’t have the poise that she does at her age. Her voice was really strong, and her performance was fine, but with time, she’s only going to improve. She’ll understand how to interact much more with the fans and definitely has the talent to take over the airwaves. In fact, there were already quite a few singing along to her Top 5 hit The Heart of Dixie. She certainly has a jump on the competition with her fanbase from television, so I expect big things from Danielle.
View the Danielle Bradbery photo gallery here.
The main support for the tour is Chris Young. Now Chris has became a pretty big star in his own right, so this bill is really a nice one for the fans. Originally this tour was of course the Beat This Summer Tour, but was extended and renamed to the Beat This Winter tour. Chris came out full of energy and ready to deliver. His nice guy attitude and big smile had the crowd eating out of his hands as he played his biggest hits. He even threw in a cover of the classic ZZ Top hit Sharp Dressed Man. Some of the highlights of the set for me were Aw-Naw, Nothing But The Cooler, current single Who I Am With You, a great drum solo and of course the party anthem Save Water, Drink Beer.
View the Chris Young photo gallery here.
Now it was time for the man that most were there to see. Brad Paisley took the stage singing my personal favorite song from his new album Wheelhouse, Southern Comfort Zone. There’s just an ease, a familiarity and a sense of common ground that the song kindles within me and I was really glad to see and hear it on this night. That led into one of Brad’s biggest hits, Mud On The Tires. That particular song really resonates with everyone in Eastern Kentucky and nearby West Virginia. Partying on an old strip job or reclaimed mountain top where the only way to get there is your four wheel drive is definitely a favorite past time in the region.
Brad’s current single, The Mona Lisa, was up next and I was really impressed with how well this song went over live. This was really the song that brought the energy to a fever pitch. Pikeville was rocking! It was around this time that I picked up on something, ole Brad uses every trick in the book to interact with his fans. From making full use of a horseshoe shaped stage to reach as many fans as possible, to poking fun at himself, to using the video boards to his advantage, Brad left no stone unturned when it came to entertaining his fans. Multiple times he even “borrowed” phones from fans to record himself singing on their phones. That’s a memory that they will never, ever forget and will most certainly share with every friend they see for the next six months. I was very impressed with his showmanship and even more so his guitar playing.
After a few more hits the band threw in their own cover. Breaking out the Van Halen classic Hot For Teacher. Who knew that Brad’s chicken pickin’ style would translate so well to rock and roll. Eddie Van Halen would be proud, but I’ve got to say that Alex would be even more proud. The drums were absolutely THUNDEROUS and the energy was taken to the next level. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to all the big light shows and laser shows in rock and roll, they’re in country music now. Country music has become the new rock and roll and our culture laps it up like it’s going out of style.
View the Brad Paisley photo gallery here.
For me though, the highlight of the night was the absolutely beautiful rendition of Then. As the video boards were set to mimic a starry sky, the stage was flooded with gorgeous blues and whites. The crowd quickly joined in on the stars as they held their cell phones high and sang along at the top of their lungs. People were also dancing in every direction you looked. It was honestly a moment that I never envisioned, as people were slow dancing and showing their loved ones they cared. That moment was a perfect example of the power that music holds.
After a hilarious version of Celebrity, complete with a look-a-like Brad Paisley muppet, the show was “interrupted” by William Shatner as the band went through a Time Warp to save ole Bill. The video boards and lasers were used to create the most creative and fun band introductions that I’ve ever seen. I won’t give it away, but it’s great for sci-fi fans, no matter what galaxy you live in.
Soon after, the band slowed it down a bit for a few acoustic songs. Sort of a front porch setting, where the band used one microphone to harmonize and kept the music simple and stirring. During this section they played a few songs like Online and I’m Still A Guy. A nice break for the crowd and the band, as we all caught our breath for the home stretch.
It had to be played, but I still felt a little silly when Beat This Summer was played. It’s January and we just had horrible weather, but I suppose it was good to get away for a bit. The crowd didn’t seem to mind as they sang along very well. I’m thinking maybe Brad should take the Pikeville crowd on tour for their harmonies, they were great!
I’m Gonna Miss Her was up next and I can say with the utmost confidence that every single person in that venue was singing along. Well, at least it seemed that way to me. I’m Gonna Miss Her soon gave way to a video duet with the one, the only, Carrie Underwood. As I have seen her do with Randy Travis in her set, Brad brought Carrie onto the big screens to sing their duet Remind Me. The crowd went nuts, then realized it was video. Well except for that one really excited drunk guy behind me. He was profanely professing his love for Carrie and told all those around them that they were crazy if they thought that was a video. Gotta admit, I chuckled.
After checking for Ticks, Brad ended the main set with Water. Making great use of the video boards once again, Brad took a dip and came back out for the encore of Alcohol. There’s a lot to say about the Alcohol performance, but I can’t give it all away. Go see the show for yourself, I promise it’s worth it. I can include one small story though. Right beside us was a little fella on his dad’s shoulders, Brad gave him a pick, which made him extremely happy. If that wasn’t enough, as the set ended, Brad came back and gave the young man a guitar and the hat off his head. Ron Burgandy comes to mind here, I think it was him that said, “You stay classy Brad Paisley.” Ha!