West Valley City >> A Brad Paisley concert resembles more of a multi-media show than a musical event.
From virtual choirs to sophisticated lasers to animation to amazingly clear video screens, the country star uses nearly every trick in the stage manager’s book to entertain his legion of fans.
And that’s the way it was on a beautiful Friday evening at the Usana Amphitheater as Paisley brought his Beat This Summer tour to Utah along with Chris Young, the charismatic Lee Brice and the up-and-coming Henningsens.
It doesn’t hurt that Paisley is a crack guitar player and writes songs with both humor and occasional controversy. It was interesting that he didn’t perform his controversial "Accidental Racist" song from his new Wheelhouse album about how his southern roots shape is perspective on life.
No, this was a show about slam bang special effects and plenty of fun.
From the moment he used lasers to display the monuments of the world with "Southern Comfort Zone" to the final chorus of "Alcohol," the 40-year-old offered non-stop entertainment.
He’s a likable sort, the kind of performer who signs a guitar and hands it to a young fan or grabs his trademark white hat and places it on the head of another youngster. And few in the cheap seats on the lawn complain when Paisley grabbed his band and worked his way through the large crowd to play a couple of acoustic songs on a small stage in the middle of the arena.
Add the technological wizardry that allows him to do a duet with a virtual video of Carrie Underwood for "Remind Me" or a video appearance by Charlie Daniels who played the "Devil Went Down to Georgia" in the middle of "Karate," a weirdly humorous song about how one woman dealt with domestic violence. The audience had to be wondering what might come next.
For my money, the hilarious video that goes with "Celebrity" that pokes fun at all things tabloid, especially Paisley, was the laugh-out- loud highlight of the evening. Rock fans no doubt appreciated the country star’s fine guitar playing on Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher.
Country historians studied the video screen to see their favorite old country stars in "This Is Country Music" that ended with a tribute to the late George Jones. One of the stars was Reba, which brought back my first memory of seeing Paisley when he was the warm-up for her on this same West Valley stage.
That night, I thought Reba was a little too slickly choreographed while Paisley was the real thing. As entertaining as Friday’s show was, and there was little to quibble about it musically or from a multi-media standpoint, it was a bit choreographed as well.
Perhaps that’s why, thinking about the warm-up acts, I enjoyed Lee Brice’s short set the most. His song "Beer" was an apt complement to Paisley’s "Alcohol" and he possessed a winning stage presence that could bring him to star status in the near future.
Paisley, though, was the obvious star. While there might be more charismatic performers, there are honestly few headliners out there who can play a guitar like he can. And his genuine warmth can turn a big outdoor amphitheater concert into an intimate experience
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