Jason Aldean is a rock star.
And I was at a rock show, no matter how many cowboys hats I saw in the absolutely packed-to-the-gills Maverik Center Saturday night.
It was immediately apparent from the get-go that Aldean has managed to cross-over and capture an audience that has never sat on a tractor, wouldn't know how to fix a pick-up truck, and has never seen a cow except for what's on their dinner plate. A DJ was spinning songs in the space between the opening acts and Aldean, and while most were country standards, the two songs that had the biggest responses were "Sweet Child 'O Mine" and "You Rocked Me All Night Long."
You can measure the charts to see cross-over appeal — Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem" reached an incredible No. 7 on the overall Billboard charts this past summer, something only artists like Taylor Swift and Shania Twain can do (and even that not on a regular basis). But the real test is seeing average Joes over a wide age range, most not wearing denim or any sort of a hat, and certainly not smelling of manure.
Once the blue-jeaned, demin-shirted and cowboy hat-wearing Aldean takes the stage, you are treated to the brightest light show this side of the sun, with about a thousand people sitting close to the stage bathed in florescent light as if the house lights are shining down on them. I'd be shocked if those fans in the front rows don't sport sunburns tomorrow.
Aldean was backed by only five musicians, but aside from the drummer every single member had a guitar. And while it was nice to see a full-time lap steel player on a country stage, the dual electric guitars stole the show. You wondered why Aldean even bothered to play an acoustic guitar. (The sound was great inside the Maverik Center, by the way, though the air temp should have been a little cooler, considering how much heat the audience was generating.)
It was hard to figure out the frenzied attraction that Aldean has, as he doesn't necessarily move about the stage more than most other country singers, and his voice, while fine, doesn't have much of a range.
So, what is it?
It has got to be the songs.
Aldean is able to deliver lines with such conviction and intensity that even though he doesn't write most of the music, he can sell a song to a songbird. And he had such belief in the songs that even before the half-way point, he had already performed his latest four chart-topping singles, not caring that "Dirt Road Anthem" would be an encore or closing song for most other performers. Rarely do performers show such conviction and faith in an audience.
It was such a rock show that even chiches that plague rock shows showed up, like an annoyingly long drum solo by the mohawked drummer.
And one other pet peeve of mine appeared, during Aldean's performance of the heart-tugging, emotional "Don't You Wanna Stay." Although Shawna Thompson (of opening act Thompson Square) was likely close-by, a previously recorded Kelly Clarkson showed up on the big screen. I know that she was his duet partner on the hit song, but having a recorded music track during a live show is something that you should only do if every woman on the planet had been wiped out by zombies.
But overall, it was a show that packed a punch and left you exhausted and sweaty, a sensation that usually only accompanies rock shows. I was hoping to wear my freshly laundered shirt on another occasion (or even two more times) before I wash it again, but now that I see the sweat stains all over, it looks like I'm be throwing it in the wash this evening.
It should be a long, cold winter, with another three months to go before the next rock ... I mean, country show, when Brad Paisley arrives in late January.
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