BRAD PAISLEY, Energy Solutions Arena, Thursday.
He's one of the biggest names in country music. And Thursday night in Salt Lake City, Brad Paisley showed why it's a deserved title.
Paisley, the 2007 Country Music Association's male vocalist of the year, delivered 90 minutes of honky tonk, country rock-pop music and guitar solos on his Telecaster before several thousand fans at the Energy Solutions Arena.
His current outing is called the "Bonfires and Amplifiers Tour." So it should have come as no surprise that his stage set-up was stacks of amps not seen since the hairy '80s, with most of his 6-piece backing band playing on top of the stacks. Most (if not all) of the amps were just props. As the band launched into the opening song "Online" the middle stacks of amplifiers opened and Paisley walked out wearing a brown T-shirt, jeans, boots and his trademark white hat.
For most of the evening Paisley kept his between-song banter to a minimum as he seamlessly rolled through his songs, including "Wrapped Around," "Mud On The Tires," "Better Than This" and "She's Everything."
Paisley was surrounded by video and LCD screens from nearly every part of the stage, which made for an outstanding light show. His three-pronged stage allowed him to walk out into the first few rows of the crowd for close-ups for the many fans who brought cameras to the arena.
Many of Paisley's songs take a poke at pop culture, such as "Celebrity" and "I'm Still A Guy," which were delivered in fine fashion.
The instrumental "Throttleneck" featured Paisley's guitar work and was one of the best songs of the evening, proving that its Grammy nomination was no fluke. The song also featured an accompanying animated video created by Paisley himself.
After the reflective "Letter to Me," Paisley, who also has written a number of songs about cars, admitted he was good about following most laws, except the speed limit, before launching into "Mr. Policeman."
A touching part of the show came when Paisley did several solo acoustic songs, including "When I Get Where I'm Going," which featured pictures on the video screen of celebrities who have passed away, including the late Heath Ledger. That was followed by "We Danced," "Dixieland Delight" and the haunting "Whiskey Lullaby," which Paisley made into a duet by playing a video of Allison Krauss' part.
Paisley closed the show with some of his foot stomping biggest hits including "Ticks" and "Alcohol" before rounding out the evening with his encore songs "I'm Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin' Song)" and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."
Opener Rodney Atkins songs delivered his songs about small town country living, opening with "These Are My People." Although he lacks the stage charisma of Paisley, Atkins delivered a fan pleasing set that included the excellent "Watching You" and the humorous "Worst 15 minutes."